Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To-fool me once...

Let's talk about tofu.

I gave up meat in January.  Not because I'm on a "Save all the animals" campaign, trying to get in touch with my inner-hippie, or even for religious reasons.  I was a Vegetarian in high school, and simply felt healthier.  Quite honestly, I was feeling really sluggish from a lot of the meat I was eating.  If all meat we consume on a regular basis came from a local butcher and wasn't pumped full of hormones, I don't think I would feel this way...  But seeing as how most awesome local butchers only sell meat by the whole animal, that's a pretty penny my husband and I can't really afford on a regular basis.  So, I decided to give Vegetarianism a shot again.  Officially, I guess you would call me a Pesca-ova-lacto-vegetarian (fish, dairy, and vegetables only diet).  I really do feel better and have even lost a little weight since making the change and only miss meat occasionally.  Well, more so now that we're getting into Summer: time of the delicious smoked meats...

Now, back to the tofu.  Did you know tofu means "bean curd" in Chinese?  It's made from the pressed curds of soy milk and then formed into a block-like shape (much in the way cheese is made from the pressing of curds from cow's milk).  When I was Vegetarian in high school, I used lots of tofu and soy crumbles as meat substitutes.  I suppose in my "everything tastes good to a teenager" palate days, tofu seemed harmless.  So, why now am I having such a hard time coming to terms with eating the stuff?  There are so many more meatless options nowadays and I actually prefer to get my protein from grains, beans, and protein-rich vegetables.  I find myself torn between wanting to use tofu more since it's such a wonderful protein source, and feeling as though it's my rubbery, bland enemy.

I recently had a terrible tofu experience at a local BBQ restaurant.  They have amazing sides!  So why couldn't I have just ordered the plate of sides?  I was feeling adventurous and they had me at "Smoked Tofu".  The texture was brie-like and the flavor, unforgivable.  No BBQ sauce in the world could mask its taste.  I won't be doing that again anytime soon.  Yet, the Chiang Mai curry dish at our favorite Thai place is so delicious, even my husband orders it with tofu!

This got me thinking...  While I'm trying to incorporate some soy products and tofu "meats" in my cooking, I think Asian dishes lift tofu to its greatest potential.  After all, tofu is of Chinese origin and even my first experiences with tofu go back to Asian dishes my Mom made for me or hot-n-sour soup from our local Chinese restaurant as a kid.

I think I'll keep working with the real stuff in some of my dishes and only use the tofu "meats" on occasion.  Below is one non-Asian dish I've made with Tofurky.  Wish me luck in my tofu adventures!

The Tofurky brand of "sausage" links isn't too bad, but I don't know that it's my favorite yet.  

 Obviously, the real links for my husband are the ones cooking to the right...

Et voila!  Bon appetit!
(Not too bad...  Crispy on the outside and the flavor is pretty good!)