What kind of bean curd is this? Driving me crazy!
A few months ago, I posted a request for a recipe for "spiced bean curd". I'm renewing my quest for info, because back then I never got an answer that was on-target.
What I'm trying to learn about is the bean curd in this recipe. It's not quite like any other bean curd I've seen.
Some posters suggested that the bean curd had been fried, but that's not right. Fried bean curd has a crust which is different from the bean curd inside.
This bean curd reminds me of a product I get in the Asian market (Kam Man, in Quincy MA) called pressed bean curd. Pressed bean curd is even firmer than "firm" bean curd, comes in smaller pieces, and has an ivory color.
And the shape of the pieces is interesting, too. They do not look like they are cut with a knife. They are oblong, and irregular in size and shape.
Does anyone have any info about the kind of bean curd this is, and how it's been processed or processed into those pieces?
My local southeast Asian stores and Chinese stores sell these, alongside the fresh tofu and blocks sealed in containers with water. They are vacuum-packed and come either plain (ivory coloured) or "seasoned" with colour and a hint of 5-spice. I don't believe they are fried whatsoever, but merely pressed by machine to extract as much liquid as possible. This accounts for the outer texture and shape. I really like the texture. It's not dissimilar to ham or a well pressed ricotta cheese. The flavour is bland, like most tofu. It must have preservatives in it, since it seems to last a long time if unopened and refrigerated. It holds up exceptionally well in stir-fries or long simmering dishes. It doesn't crumble at all like extra firm tofu. Aside from fresh tofu, it is probably my favourite in terms of texture and taste. Hope this helps!
There is quite a gap in what one can get at a Chinese grocery store and a western style health food store. The Chinese Dou Gan 豆干 literally means "bean"(soy) "dry", and is certainly not baked, but pressed. The Chinese version is quite simple and plain, but totally accepted as is because it's been around for so long that it doesn't need to be doctored to be accepted.
The western version of it is called "baked tofu", and usually has on top of the basic ingredients for tofu, a ton of unpronounceable ingredients and taste quite awful to the Chinese palate, sorry to say, mainly because it is still relatively new in the western world.
Cheeseboy's link shows a pretty basic dou gan on the very bottom of the stack. Though they can come in different shapes and slight variation in texture depending on what brand you get. I tried to find my favorite online for a picture, but can't seem to find it just now. There is one incarnation of the dou gan that comes two dark brown cylinders in a pack. They are often called Su Ji 素鸡 (vegetarian chicken) when in this shape. They make great snacks since they are already cooked.
Another kind of vegetarian chicken made by a different company in NY are paler and softer in texture. They come four mini loaves in a package. These work better cooked rather than eating as is.
Then there are the dou gan that are super dry and are packaged as snacks that need not be refrigerated. More like soy jerkies. Again, the best ones (to me) are the simple 5-spice flavored, chewy (often compared to leather) texture that can come in thin small squares sheets, or little cubes, or strips...etc.
OK, so how is the drier ("pressed"?) tofu made? Is it something that can be made, or mimicked, at home? Is "pressed" a word that should be taken literally, or a (mis-) translation?
In the picture at restaurantwindow.com, the second one from the bottom looks like it will have the consistency of the stuff I'm talking about. This one is the one sold at the market as "pressed bean curd". The others definitely look more like regular bean curd.
I'm gonna try baking some tofu in a slow oven and see what happens.
From what I've seen as a child pressed tofu is really pressed by being sandwiched between two planks of wood and heavily weighed down so that the water gets squeezed out. I think you'll have to make it from scratch instead of taking the tofu that's already made and going from there. I could be wrong. Or, at least, you might try using a full strength soy
milk, flavor it, heat it, add the coagulant, laddle the pre-tofu into a place where you can drain and press into the Dou gan.
From making my own soy milk at home (using manual stone grinder), I can tell you that I eventually just settled with being able to make extra thick and rich soymilk. The reason I don't make tofu as often is because it takes A LOT of hard-earned soymilk to get a little piece of tofu....it's a very rich tasting tofu that has the fatty texture of brain, or of foie gras, sure, but, it makes sharing more difficult due to the small amount.
I'll be curious to find out how your slow baked tofu turn out. Please keep us posted.
HLing is correct re: pressed tofu. It is just about pressing (or squeezing) the excess water out of the tofu. And, yes, you CANNOT shortcut the process by using pre-made tofu. Gotta do it with freshly made tofu of your own.
In my opinion, it's really not worth the effort to make homemade pressed tofu.
And, by the way, 豆干 and 素鸡 are not really substitutes for one another; they're quite different delicacies.
Ipsedixit, good that you brought this up: at the risk of confusing the issues even more, the brand of 素鸡 Su Ji (vegetarian chicken) I'm speaking of is quite close to Dou Gan in that it CAN be made from very finely ground, and sieved soymilk and then squeezed of all the water and but is just cylindrical shape instead of the conventional square. I was mentioning Su Ji because the OP mentioned "oblong" and " irregular sizes and shapes.."
The other, quite different, and now that ipsedixit mentioned it, probably more conventional Su Ji, is the kind that's made from pressing layer upon layers of reconstituted soy skin 腐竹(even more labor intensive, for you have to skim, sheet by sheet, the creme that form at the top of the warm soymilk，let them dry, then soak and cook them, then layer them atop of each other, then roll them up).
Howard2, actually the 2nd and the 4th one of the pictures are pretty much the same dou gan (yes, "pressed" is a description of how it's made, but not part of the literal name), except for the skin color. The darker one would have a more prominent 5-spice flavor.
Kubasd, you're right in the western world of tofu, since it is called "baked" in western shops. In Chinese grocery stores it's dou gan of one sort or another. Also, the Chinese ones tend to be quite simple and "boring" in flavor compared to its counter part in the western version.
There's not going to be one straight answer for any of these products because different Asian cultures have slightly different recipe for each. For example, in the picture, the top one, which Ipsedixit called dou pao, I would call it some sort of "you dou fu", or, literally "oil Tofu" 油豆腐. The particular one in the picture looked more like the Japanese version, judging from the dimension.
Where I'm from the dou bao (bean wrap) is made from stacking many layers of fresh tofu skins and then roll them up and pressed so that they stay together, but not dried out. And so this is more tender than the other Su JI (vegetarian chicken) I was speaking of at the top of this reply.
I've never been able to press regular firm tofu and really get it firm. But there is a baked tofu put out by Wildwood natural foods that is so dense and firm that it's like slicing into cheddar cheese. It's the only tofu I really like. Wildwood offers their baked tofu plain or seasoned. Maybe this is similar to what you were looking for?