How to make tofu

Some people have expressed an interest in making my famous tofu. Although there are undoubtedly already a ton of recipes on the web, I thought it might be a more efficient use of my time to make some highly detailed sketches (I didn't take photos as I made it) with poor spelling and write out the entire recipe here.

What will you need to make tofu?

soy beans (organic, local, yummy)
heat source (I used a gas stove)
nigari (natural magnesium chloride or natural calcium sulfate)
a thin cloth
an empty milk or juice carton
a blender or hand mixer

Step 1: Soaking the beans

Put the beans in water. I prefer to use clean water, as opposed to dirty dish water or the likes. However, "clean" is a subjective word. Some people don't like to use water from the tap because it has crud and scum built up in the pipes for years. Also, tap water may have some chemicals in it, and some people say that the molecules in tap water are "flat". If you are worried about these
things, you can use bottled water from a natural spring. I just used tap water.

The beans should be soaked for about eight hours, until they are soft and delicious.

Step 2: Blend the beans

Notice that I did not specify how many beans should be soaked. When I made it I did it tekitou, meaning "who really cares". In this second step however, you can make sure that your bean to water ration is correct by mixing one cup of soaked beans with once cup of water. In a blender chop it all up sot he beans are as fine as you can get them. I used the "liquify" setting. Go crazy.

Step 3: Boil the bean mush

You will now have a big bowl of bean mush. Pour this all into a pot with another cup of water and cook it over a high flame. Keep stirring it until a thick layer of fine bubbles arise on top. Stop the fire.

Step 4: Boil the bean mush longer

Once the bubbles goes down again, turn the fire onto low and slowly boil it for about ten minutes until there are fluffy bubbles arise again. After about ten minutes, the bitter "green" flavor of the beans should be less noticeable.

Step 5: Pour mush in sack

Hold a cloth sack over a bowl and pour the mush into the cloth sack. This cloth sack should be pretty thin (not like a towel), and it should not have any big holes in it which would allow the bean particles to slip out with the soy milk.

Step 6: Squeeze bean mush sack

Squeeze all the milk out of the sack. Be careful, it's hot. You can use a rolling pin or plate or anything else that allows you to put pressure on the sack of mush without touching it. I got impatient and decided to use my hand. The blisters are just now disappearing.

If you only want soy milk, stop right here and enjoy. If you want to make tofu, read on. Either way, you can put the left over mush into a container for later use in soup or bread or anything your imagination allows.

Step 7: Stir nigari into soy milk

Measure the amount of milk you have managed to squeeze out. The amount of nigari you use should be equal to about one percent of the total soy milk.

Mix the nigari with a little hot water (1:3) to help it blend more evenly as you stir it into the soy milk.

Put the soy milk over a low flame and cook until it is about 85 degrees. Stop the fire.

Stir the milk vigorously in one direction, pouring in the nigari/water mixture all at once (continuing to stir).

Step 8: Pour tofu juice into tofu mold

Make a mold to form your tofu. Traditionally, people in Japan use a nice wooden box with holes in the bottom. We didn't have one, and didn't want to buy something that seems to only have one purpose, yet takes up more space in our tiny kitchen, so we made one out of a soy-milk carton that was waiting in the recycle basket. We washed out the inside of the carton, cut off one side so that it was shallow with a large surface area, and cut some small holes in the bottom and sides.

Next, take a thin cloth (we used the same cloth that we used to strain the bean mush), dampen it, and spread it out in the bottom of the milk carton.

Place the newly created tofu mold with damp cloth into another pan to capture the juice that trickles out. This juice can later be used in soup or cake or whatever.

Pour the nigari / soy milk mixture into the mold.

Step 9: Press tofu

Fold the cloth over to cover the top of the tofu as well.

Traditionally, there is a wooden press placed over this and slowly pressed down to squeeze out more of the juice. As I have said, we do not like tradition, so we made a press with, you guessed it, the side of the soy-milk container which we had cut off to make the mold.

Place this over the coagulating tofu, and either lightly press or, as the recipe we somewhat followed suggested, put a glass of water on top and let gravity do the work.

Let this sit for a while. As the juice is pressed out and the tofu cools, it will start to look just like the kind you get in the grocery store. The only difference is that you have not added any preservatives, you know where the beans came from (assuming you researched and purchased responsibly produced beans) and you have the left-over by-products, such as the squeezed bean pulp, and the squeezed tofu juice.

Also, without taking into account the time spent to make it, this is cheaper than buying tofu at the super market here in Tokyo. Of course, if you figure out your hourly wage, it is actually quite expensive, depending on what your day job is. We realized this, but also compared it to the enjoyment and cost of other activities we could have spent the time doing together. I.e., making tofu was more fun than watching a DVD (and renting DVDs costs more money).

Comments about How to make tofu

Thank you so much! I know that I would probably find a million recipies if i googeled but it is something special with being abel to say that itīs our former pressphotografs original tokyo recipe :o) Anyway you donīt have to stress with the homepage to much, I didnīt mean to puch you, but did you understod what I ment when I asked about the code?
Beautiful photos by the way. You are really good. Anyone from the jungle or have I just not looked throug them good enough yet?
See you

Posted by: at August 25, 2005 06:48 AM

Forgot to write my signature in the previous messege...

Posted by: Rebecca at August 25, 2005 06:52 AM

thank you very much for the recipe, my wife and i have been incorporating slow-food into our lives and eating "healthier" the last couple of years. We enjoy very much making our own food (jam, kimchi, curry, etc) from scratch. we disconnected our cable and now get so many other things done instead of watching TV!

i liived in tokyo for 4 years and check for your photo updates often and found your recipe. tofu was actually one of the next items on my list, so i will defenitelly enjoy making it this weekend. thanks again. p.

Posted by: pablo at August 30, 2005 05:02 AM

Glad it inspired you Pablo. I just hope it works and I haven't forgotten some key ingredient or step :o !

Posted by: kevin at August 30, 2005 11:33 AM

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