When most of us think of tofu, we think about vegetarian and vegan cooking. Tofu and other soybean products are a common meat substitute and


Asian Tofu Is A Meaty Cookbook

When most of us think of tofu, we think about vegetarian and vegan cooking. Tofu and other soybean products are a common meat substitute and protein source for those who don't eat meat. Many carnivores like myself, skip tofu for meat options in many dishes, failing to realize how great tofu and meat can taste together, or that tofu is a better choice for certain dishes. Many Asian cuisines combine meat and tofu in countless dishes, or spotlight this versatile and nutritious ingredient. In Asian Tofu, Andrea Nguyen has combined recipes for making your own tofu along with over 100 recipes for meaty and meat-free dishes using store-bought or homemade tofu.

Nguyen begins this cookbook with the history of tofu--from the legend of it's beginnings during the Han dynasty in China during the 3rd century BCE, where soybeans are native and were considered one of the five sacred "grains;" to it's introduction in Japan about 1,000 years later. Tofu spread across Southeast and South Asia from there. Tofu didn't catch on in the U.S. until the 1970s, yet didn't quite hit the mainstream until the 1990s when, like today, it appeared on supermarket shelves, not just in co-ops.

The recipes in Asian Tofu span several Asian cuisines: There are spiced tofu and vegetable fritters from India, spicy lemongrass salad from Thailand, gua bao from Taiwan, deep-fried tofu from Japan, tofu with kimchi and pork belly from Korea, and spicy tofu with beef and Sichuan peppercorns from China. There are recipes for fried, grilled, fresh, and stir-fried tofu. There's tofu in soups, salads, and dumplings, and even tofu ice cream. Most recipes include anecdotes about where or how Nguyen was introduced to a dish, or tips on variations or tricks for making the dish shine.

The introduction of this cookbook also includes an overview of the different kinds of tofu available, along with buying, storing, and general tofu cooking tips. For serious DIYers, there are several recipes for making your own tofu: silken tofu, tofu pudding, block, pressed, and fermented tofu, and even soy milk, including tips for using the lees leftover from the process.

I have avoided cooking with tofu since my failed attempt to be vegetarian in my early 20s. With the flavors and spices I found in the dishes I cooked from this book however, along with the relative ease and accessibility of the recipes, I suspect I'll be cooking more with tofu in the future.

Andrea Nguyen will be in Seattle this month to promote Asian Tofu. Meet her at a book signing, demonstration and tasting at Book Larder on Monday, September 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The $20 event is limited to 30 people. On September 19 at 12 p.m., Monsoon chefs Eric and Sophie Banh will host Nguyen for a four-course lunch, showcasing their favorite kinds of tofu. The $35/person cost includes a family-style meal and wine. Copies of Asian Tofu will be available for purchase and signing. Advanced tickets are required and can be purchased at

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