Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made by coagulating soymilk. Tofu comes in a variety of different textures depending on the coagulant used and the amount that it is pressed. Firmer tofu is pressed for longer: removing more water and yielding tofu that is dense, richly textured, and more suited for aggressive cooking methods. Softer tofu is pressed for a shorter amount of time resulting in more tender curds. Silken tofu is made using a different type of coagulant and is incredibly smooth and tender in texture with a refined flavor.
Extra soft silken tofu is best eaten raw with soy sauce or cooked minimally such as in soups, steamed dishes, and stews. Care should be taken while cooking extra soft tofu to preserve its texture and keep it from breaking apart. Add it towards the end of the cooking process or use gentle cooking methods such as steaming.
Soft tofu is a great addition to stir-fry dishes, soups, stews, and steamed foods.
Firm tofu is excellent for frying, stir-frying, and aggressive cooking techniques.
Extra firm tofu holds up to even more aggressive cooking methods such as grilling and broiling. This tofu can be treated almost like meat: it is dense, chewy, and able to withstand the most hearty of sauces and cooking methods.
All-purpose tofu is a versatile variant that is good for a variety of cooking methods.
The clean and subtle flavor of tofu is a staple of every Asian meal from soups to entrees to desserts.