Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pressed Five Spice Tofu

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!


  1. Is pressed tofu the same thing as dou fu gan? I like to stir fry dou fu gan with salted mustard greens (xue li hong) and bamboo shoots, sometimes some shiitakes and or pork tossed in.

  2. oh i love pressed tofu so much. i eat it cold just sliced up for a snack. its the best! this looks so good, i've never so far as cooked, WOW!

  3. I eat a lot of tofu, but I have to try this five spiced pressed variety. A couple of other blogs have mentioned it too. Thanks for the appetizing photos!

  4. Hi PE - I really like the photos on this post....makes my mouth water! I'm sure the wheat gluten post is coming up??? ;o)

  5. I have made smokedtofu which is also a pressed variety and it is delicious. I used it to make baked ziti for a friend who had a baby on a Friday during Lent, and she had never eaten tofu and she had no idea! She thought it was great!

  6. I'm sold - as one who is used to eating tofu straight from the package (firm tofu only mind you) -this sounds like a much better textural experience.

    Deborah - smoked tofu and baked ziti! I never thought of incorporating tofu into pasta, but I bet it works very well.

  7. Tofu is the best, be it soft, silken, hard, dried, fried, 5-spice, whatever. I am partial to tofu and soy-products...I think I can live on them (and seafood!). Meat is not essential in my diet. ;)

  8. Your blog has been so educational! I find out about the different Guide cookies and now flavoured firm tofu. I'm a definite omnivore, but I do love my tofu.

  9. I loove pressed tofu! The texture is great and I like the flavor too. dinner sometime?

  10. I like pressed tofu too. It's something that I've learned to appreciate since I grew up with plain old many different ways to eat and prepare tofu without resorting to Tofurkey!

  11. i thought that first picture was of flan when i first saw it! lol! but fine, i'll settle for tofu. it's good for you.

  12. My mom used to give me a piece of this stuff as a snack on hot summer days. To this day, the taste of it makes me think of mom and hay fever.

  13. You can also press your own. I do it all the time. I love my tofu.

  14. I bet that my grandma secretly knows how to use a computer and reads your blog. She's been staying over with us and for the past 2 days she has only made vegetarian dishes: veggie/tofu stirfry and bi chay cuon, both with dried beancurd skin.

  15. I've only had tofu once in my whole life. I wasn't impressed....but your photos do make me want to give it another try!

  16. pressed tofu is one of my mom's favorite cooking ingredients, and this post made me think of her. :)

    i am just noticing the banner! what a great design!!! so skillful, PE!

  17. I'm a pressed tofu fan too. Just had it the other day at Luscious Dumplings. They have pressed tofu, celery, boiled peanuts in chili and vinegar appetizer while you wait for the dumplings to come out. Mmm.

  18. Yes it is dou fu gan Amy! And wow, that recipe of salted mustard greens, pressed tofu, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and pork sounds mouthwatering! Thanks for the great tips! I'd love to try them sometime!

    Aria, I have had the really dried version of uncooked tofu before, but I have never tried pressed tofu without cooking it first. I am sure it would be delicious though, because I love this stuff!

    I should be thanking you for all of your appetizing photos Susan! And I'd love to hear what you think about pressed tofu!

    Yes Kirk K, the wheat gluten / seitan post will be coming up soon! (Am I going too crazy with the posts on vegetarian meals?)

    Oooo, smoked tofu sounds fantastic Deborah Dowd! I can just imagine the hints of mesquite and the barbequed aroma! I would love to try that sometime!

    You put it very well. It is completely "a much better textural experience" Douglas Cress! It is smoother than firm tofu, so I encourage that you try it!

    Yes Rasa Malaysia, with tofu options like these, you don't need meat! But you still need seafood! ;)

    Thank you Archivarian, I can't wait to hear if you've tried it! And your blog has educated me on what reading materials I should be checking out at the library or buying at the bookstore!

    I just asked the beau L L, and he said "yes!" I would love to go out when you are available!

    There are a plethora of options Elmo Monster, but Tofurkey is one of them! I need to also post about "Fakin' Bacon" and the "Non-Meat Chicken Nuggets!"

    Ooops, sorry about being misleading Pink Nest, and I hope to post on flan soon then, to satiate any desire you may have on it!

    Your mom is fantastic Chubby Panda! My mom would give me 7-up and crackers. At least you had some tasty and healing food items!

    You must teach me the learned ways of the vegan Urban Vegan! I would love to hear how you press your own tofu!

    Christine D., I've been corresponding to your Grandma via the "Vietnamese vibe." All us Vietnamese have a primal vegetarian instinct in us!

    If you only try one other type of tofu in your life, I hope it is this kind Rachel! You can get it in Chinatown.

    Next time your Mom comes down to San Francisco, can I be invited to dinner Jinerous?

    I noticed you are a fan of Luscious Dumplings Wandering Chopsticks! But I am becoming a fan of your luscious and delicious blog! I am so glad I discovered it!

  19. Please tell me where I can buy this stuff!! Trader Joes near me doesn't carry it. What brand/package do you get? The top picture looks a lot like the PF Changs type. Please help!

  20. Sean, you can check out the specialty Asian markets, such as 99 Ranch Market for that type of tofu.

  21. This was really inspiring. I had had my eye on the pressed tofu at the Asian market for a while now, and this gave me some great ideas about what to do with it. And it was one of the best stir frys that I have ever made. Thanks!

  22. where can i buy five spiced pressed tofu. i love it but do not know where to buy it

  23. Where can I buy this in southeast Michigan? Thank you!


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