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Tania Nathan is a Chinese-Sri Lankan Malaysian who loves her food and is often to be found rummaging through a freezer somewhere in Hakaniemi. Come say hi!


Tofu is no longer a mystery faux meat to the Finnish market. We’ve got your soymilk, soy drink, soy cream, hemp-tofu, smoked and marinated tofu and all kinds of business. But what about the mystery hybrid tofus – and how do you treat silken versus regular versus extra firm tofu? Read on gentle reader. Read on.

Silken tofu

This stuff, which also comes shelved and unrefrigerated is excellent stuff in vegan desserts, and tastes great steamed and topped with chopped scallions, soy and sesame oil. Mori-nu makes a good one and its pretty cheap and high in protein. Like its namesake, its silken and very slippery, so it won’t hold up in curries. Unlike the next bad boy on our list...

Firm tofu / Extra firm tofu

Depending on your needs, you can freeze firm tofu, squeeze out excess liquid, fry or use in curries. I especially like the really cheap extra firm tofu, which I press (a frying pan does the job well) to rid of excess water, dry with paper towels then toss in flour and salt and fry. Use in place of meat in almost any dish, just remember to sauce and spice accordingly as tofu is pretty flavourless on its own. Tofu works very well with dried shiitake mushrooms, which gives it an umami-depth of flavour.

Image: Andrew Lih

Bean curd sticks

Called yuba in Chinese, bean curd sticks are made from the skin that forms on soymilk as it is heated. High in protein, it is more toothsome than the slippery smoothness of tofu. To use, soak in water first and then add to stir fries or curries.

Natto

A Japanese delight, this is not for the faint of heart. Natto are fermented (or should I say, rotting) soy beans that some say are absolutely delicious. Pungent, stick and slimy, it is eaten at breakfast with an egg, rice and a strong stomach. It is however chock-full of minerals and can be found in the freezer section of the Asian grocers.

Pickled tofu

Sold in glass jars, this stuff is rad. It’s sometimes called preserved or fermented tofu, because its been dried under hay, then soaked in salt water, Chinese wine, vinegar and dried chillies or other deliciously stinky mixtures. I’ve always had it in stew, which it adds a lovely flavour to.

Stinky tofu

A soft tofu that’s been fermented in vegetable and fish brine, I haven’t seen this stuff in Finland as yet. But smells asides, this stuff is delish – the rind that develops cooks up crisp, and the tofu is full of umami flavors. Give it a go when you find it, stinky tofu’s bark is definitely worse than its bite!