Basic Chinese Pantry. Bean Curd

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Bean_Curd_cQuick and easy cookery is, well, quick and easy once you have at hand the basics of a Chinese pantry. One of them is bean curd, also known by its Chinese name, dou foo (dofu), or by its Japanese name, tofu. It has played an important part in Chinese cookery for over 1000 years because it is highly nutritious, rich in protein, and goes well with other foods.


Quick and easy cookery is, well, quick and easy once you have at hand the basics of a Chinese pantry. These items, no longer exotic, are readily available in supermarkets and speciality food shops. And there need be very little waste involved in stocking up your store-cupboard as almost every one of these basic ingredients will keep nicely for a long time. You will have to shop only for fresh ingredients - those given in the Shopping List at the beginning of each recipe; it is assumed that, having read this section, you will already have the staples, so these are not drawn to your attention in the same way.

Remember too that if your pantry lacks an ingredient, something else can almost certainly substitute for it. Perhaps soy sauce is the only seasoning whose flavour cannot be replaced. Everything else resolves itself to a matter of taste, your taste. You are in command!

With this text we begin a series of articles about Chinese Pantry. You are welcome to read and comment on them.

So, here is the first article.

Bean curd

Bean curd is also known by its Chinese name, dou foo (dofu), or by its Japanese name, tofu. It has played an important part in Chinese cookery for over 1000 years because it is highly nutritious, rich in protein, and goes well with other foods. Bean curd has a distinctive texture but a bland taste. It is made from yellow soya beans which are soaked, ground, mixed with water and then cooked briefly before being solidified. It is usually sold in two forms: in a firm cake or in a soft custard-like form. It is perfect for quick and easy meals because it is so versatile, needs little cooking, and can easily be combined with other foods. It is also quite inexpensive. The soft bean curd (sometimes called silken tofu) is used for soups and other dishes, while the firm type is used for stir-frying, braising and deep-frying. Firm bean curd 'cakes', white in colour, are sold in many supermarkets, health food shops and Asian grocers'. They are packed in water in plastic containers and may be kept in this state in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, provided the water is changed daily. To use firm bean curd, cut the required amount into cubes or shreds using a sharp knife. Do this with care as it is delicate. It also needs to be cooked gently as too much stirring can cause it to disintegrate. This does not, however, affect its nutritional value.



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