Who even needs a soulmate when you can have tofu?FLICKR / ALPHA (https://www.flickr.com/photos/10559879@N00/3122542562)

My greatest pet peeve, the thing that really, truly, lights a fire under my bum, is when tofu gets marauded around as just a meat replacement. If I see another Instagram reel telling me to toss my tofu in buffalo sauce so I can get vegan chicken wings, I will actually lose my marbles, tip over the edge, and plummet, head-first, towards insanity. My friends can attest that I get very heated about this — in fact, it was over dinner some Sundays ago that I was dishing this exact rant to a friend, who I think I managed to terrify with the intensity of my feelings towards soybean products in general. He told me to ‘write an article if it peeved me so much’. And that’s how I decided Varsity would be the medium through which I expressed my frustration towards the great, gastronomic injustice the West has exacted onto this humble protein.

“My family and I love tofu, maybe to an alarming degree, because it’s tasty — really tasty”

As an Asian, a vegetarian since birth, and a person that enjoys eating, I strongly believe that tofu shines the brightest when it’s allowed to be its own thing. Growing up in Hong Kong, I took for granted the number of shops dedicated entirely to soybean products. Fresh soy milk, ground and bottled the day of my purchase, is a beverage I turned to for a quick breakfast or a pick-me-up after a bad day at school. Silken tofu, the texture of soft pudding, is served sweet in small, ceramic bowls. The last time I was home, my parents and I had little tofu routines. My mother and I would make a beeline for her favourite stand in the market and take our time to decide which, out of hundreds of types of tofu, we wanted for dinner. Firm tofu might get sliced, seared til golden in an oiled pan and served with stir-fried salted greens. Small, dense blocks of chewy, five spice tofu might get cubed and stir-fried with bean sprouts and light soy. Tofu puffs might get sliced and simmered in fragrant broths. And after dinner, my dad and I would share a silent, knowing glance, and we’d slowly wander towards our local dessert stand, picking up tofu steeped in almond or ginger syrups, or sometimes black sesame soup if we were feeling indulgent. You get the gist. My family and I love tofu, maybe to an alarming degree, because it’s comforting. And versatile. And tasty — really tasty.

“If I see another vegan tofu chicken wing, I will actually lose my marbles”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad tofu has started to catch on here. Mostly, I’m glad I live in an age where I don’t have to walk far to find an ingredient that brings me so much nostalgic joy. But I can’t help but feel frustrated at the fact that people can’t seem to enjoy tofu as its own thing. It’s called ‘bland’, ‘flavourless’, and ‘requires so much pressing and reshaping and seasoning and forethought’ that it’s difficult to use on a weeknight when you’re busy doing supo work. I see what you’re saying. But I think most of these problems can be resolved with a few suggested purchases and recipes that will teach you to enjoy tofu as its own, delicious thing.

Buy tofu puffs


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I mentioned these earlier but they are a freezer staple for my family and I. These brown cubes look unassuming, but are absolutely incredible at soaking up flavour. Buy a pack from Cho Mee (10 Mill Road) or Ocean (58 Mill Road) Supermarkets, and just stick the whole thing in the freezer. The next time you make tom-yum noodle soup, udon, pho, or hot pot, simply grab a couple of cubes, halve, and simmer in your chosen broth for five to ten minutes until they’ve softened and soaked up a tremendous amount of flavour.

Silken tofu with scallions, coriander, ginger, and soy

Silken tofu can be purchased either from the fridges of any Asian supermarket, or increasingly (and impressively) in little, shelf-stable boxes in Mainsbury’s. Buy a pack (or two, if you’re using the small ones from Mainsbury’s), and plonk onto a plate. You can either choose to steam this for 15 minutes so that it is hot, or serve cold. Either way, slice a length of scallion into rounds, chop up a handful of coriander, grate half a thumb’s worth of ginger, and (optionally) a bird’s eye chilli. Place these into a heatproof bowl, along with a small pinch of salt and sugar, and set aside. Meanwhile, heat up half an inch of neutral oil in a pan until small wisps of smoke appear, and your kitchen smells nutty. Carefully pour this over your aromatics, and watch it sizzle. Pour this herb oil over your tofu, and finish with a drizzle of light soy. Serve with freshly-steamed rice.