Although my own attempt to live a vegetarian life failed miserably, I will always be an avid proponent of meatless meals and vegetarian options at every dinner table. Accordingly, I will always shamelessly promote tofu. Tofu is a staple in any vegetarian diet, because the ground soy beans that make up tofu provide a plethora of nutrients to a tofu-eater, the most important of those being protein.
Although almost everyone is familiar with tofu, not everyone is familiar with "pressed tofu." Unlike the ubiquitous tofu that comes in the refrigerated section of every major supermarket, pressed tofu is its unique and often neglected cousin.
Pressed tofu is actually regular tofu that has been "pressed" and drained of excess liquid. If regular tofu was the ricotta of the cheese world, then pressed tofu is the dry aged parmesan. Essentially, pressed tofu has less moisture and has to go through a few more processes to get to its final state.
Although you may purchase pressed tofu unflavored, you can also buy it infused with five spice powder. Five spice powder is an aromatic blend of finely milled spices, including ground star anise, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, ginger, cloves, and occasionally cardamom. In Mandarin, five spice powder is called, "wu shiang fun," or literally, five fragrant powders. I believe that the dark brown skin of pressed tofu comes from the infusion of the ground spices into the exposed surface of the tofu and the drying process.
The appeal of pressed tofu (vis-à-vis the spongy, waterlogged, and ivory-toned tofu) is that the texture of pressed tofu is substantial and astonishing meat-like. There is "bite" and resistance to pressed tofu: pressed tofu defiantly and snaps back with elasticity when you sink your teeth into it. However, similar to the traditional type of tofu, it can easily assimilate with the flavors of any dish because of its absorptive qualities.
The pictures above are of a previous recipe I posted before, but I substituted one bundle of asparagus for the okra and added one package of pressed tofu, which I cut into bite-sized strips.
I hope I have sold you on the merits of pressed tofu. I can't wait to hear whether you have tried it!