October 1, 2011

Guide to Choosing Tofu 豆腐

Tofu Guide, tofu, guide, how to choose

Personifying simplicity and minimalism.  Yet so obliging and ready to please.  Oh wonderful Tofu!  What other food stuff could compare to you, so coy and sculpturesque on my little kitchen counter?  Tofu, or 豆腐, is indeed a magical food.  It is so yummy and versatile that you can find it everywhere and in everything.  In order to choose what type of tofu best suits your needs, here is a simple guide.

Tofu Guide, tofu, guide, how to choose

In Hong Kong as well as elsewhere in Asian groceries there will be usually be four basic types of tofu.
  1. Silken or Soft Tofu - very delicate texture, used for steaming or dishes like Thousand Year Egg and Tofu where very little stirring is required (stirring will quickly disintegrate the Silken Tofu into mush)  There is also a silken tofu that is sold specifically as a dessert called Tofu Flower, or 豆腐花, which is really good, especially if you can find it fresh on the streets of Hong Kong.

  2. Medium firm Tofu - as per the name, the firmness is medium and therefore this tofu can be cut up into cubes or whatnot with a bit of care.  This makes this type good for braising dishes where the cooking time is longer with a gentle bit of stirring.  This tofu will hold mostly firm if you are gentle with it.

  3. Firm Tofu - firmer texture, so thinner slicing is possible.  Good for stir-frying or for soups (it won't fall apart with the boiling).

  4. Dried Tofu - This is tofu that has been flavored, usually with five-spice powder, and then compressed until it is very firm and hard, chewy when you eat it.  This is wonderful for eating as is or for slicing thinly and using in stir-frys.
Tofu Guide, tofu, guide, how to choose

Another consideration one can make nowadays is whether or not to buy organic tofu.  In Hong Kong and I dare say for most other places as well, there are more and more choices available for organic tofu.  We have found three different kinds of locally produced organic tofu in our neighborhood alone, two in the corner organic store and one in Welcome grocery shop.

Of course with these tofu, the types of firmness and so on may be more limited and you really need to try the individual types to see what kind of characteristics they offer.  We have switched to eating mostly organic tofu mostly because of the taste; the tofu tastes more soybeany, more flavorful, just better.  It is also a great choice for providing daily protein for our toddler.

Wow, looking at these photos really reminds me how pretty the humble tofu acutally is.  Hum, I think I'm definitely going to make a tofu dish tonite.



  1. I really enjoy eating the tofu desert I get at some Chinese restaurants. It is served with some sugar syrup. Can I make it using silken tofu and then add sugar on top of it? Would it taste the same? I'm thinking since tofu is pretty bland it might work? What do you think?

    1. The tofu for the Chinese dessert you're thinking of is different from silken tofu. It's called Tofu Fa, or Douhau, or豆腐花 and it's also tofu but made differently so that it's super soft, delicate and silky. Silken tofu might work in a pinch but I doubt it would be as delicate as Tofu Fa. However I have seen Tofu Fa sold in pre packaged tubs alongside regular tofu. You could check Asian groceries to see if they have it. We're also working on a post on How to Make Your Own Tofu Fa, so check back if you're interested. (Will post soon I hope!) ~ellen