Chinese food pantry-BEAN CURD, FRESH

BEAN CURD, FRESH. This is the most common form of bean curd and is typically sold in 21⁄2- to 3-inch square cakes, in packages and sometimes loose. The slightly firm, custardlike cakes, known as doufu, are made from ground soybeans cooked

in the liquid, or “milk,” they exude. Buying individual cakes is preferred over purchasing packages that contain several cakes or a single large block. Bean curd has little taste of its own. Its versatility lies in its ability to absorb the tastes of the foods with which it is cooked. Store it in water to cover in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, changing the water daily. Japanese brands, sold as “tofu,” are packaged in large sizes, up to 16-ounce cakes, and are sold in three distinct textures: soft or silken, firm or medium-firm, and extra-firm. Medium-firm is closest to the Chinese variety, and I favor it. Chinese bean curd is occasion- ally labeled “tofu” as well, or as daufu, the romanized Cantonese. Bean curd factories also sell a bean curd cus- tard. It has the texture of a classic egg custard and must be eaten fresh. The Chinese eat it with sugar syrup as a snack or atop a mound of rice with a drizzle of soy sauce.

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