Made from curdled soymilk that has been pressed into cakes, tofu has been used in Asian cooking for centuries. Its mild, slightly nutty taste blends into everything from dressings to desserts. Tofu also takes on the flavor of other ingredients; it goes especially well with strong-tasting garlic, curry, ginger, and soy sauce. There are two basic varieties: regular and silken, both of which come in soft, firm, and extra-firm.
Where to find it
Regular tofu is packed in water and sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Silken tofu is usually sold in vacuum-packed, shelf-stable containers in the Asian-food section.
Which type to use
For soups and sauces, choose soft tofu. For frying and grilling, firm and extra-firm are your best bets; drain them well before using (see below). Silken tofu, which has a custard-like texture, is ideal for pureed dishes, such as puddings and smoothies.
Packages of water-packed tofu come with a sell-by date; any unused portion can be drained, covered with fresh water, and refrigerated (covered) up to a week. Unopened, silken tofu will keep at room temperature for up to eight months.
Before frying or roasting tofu, it's a good idea to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut to desired size, then press between two baking sheets lined with plenty of paper towels and weighted with a heavy skillet or canned goods, about 20 minutes.