When I ask cookbook author Hannah Che what she thinks many cooks misunderstand about tofu, she doesn’t hesitate. “That it’s not necessarily supposed to be meaty,” she tells me in a Zoom call from her Portland, Ore., home. “If you think about it, it’s more similar to a dairy product because it’s made from coagulating soy milk.”
Total time:20 mins
In other words, tofu is closer to cheese (which comes in such a range of textures) than to meat (which does not), and the more you understand that as a cook, the better your results will be. “Tofu has a range of possibilities,” she says. “It’s a beautiful core ingredient that’s not a substitute for anything. It’s delicious in its own right.”
Tofu takes center stage in Che’s new book, “The Vegan Chinese Kitchen,” which chronicles how she came to terms with both her own cultural heritage and her desire to cook and eat plant-based food. The two had initially seemed in conflict when Che became vegan in 2015 while in college, concentrating on salads, grain bowls and the like. On one trip home for the holidays, she realized that her newfound diet was in danger of disconnecting her from her immigrant parents and the traditions they remembered — and wanted to pass along.
“It’s impossible to separate who we are from what we eat, and animal products are deeply ingrained in the food traditions of most cultures,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “How do you remove yourself from these traditions without a fundamental sense of loss?”
How to press tofu — or decide if it’s even necessary
Che’s answer was to study. After graduate school, she moved to China to attend Guangzhou Vegetarian Culinary School, immersing herself in…
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