In Honolulu, I regularly pay more than I can stand for 12 oz. blocks of tofu and half-gallon containers of soy milk. After tax, the former usually costs around $3 and the latter around $6. I easily go through this much tofu and soy milk in a week, which means that in a month I pay around $40 for these two products alone. I decided to look around Honolulu for tofu molds but came up empty handed. After my fruitless two-week search I headed online, and in a matter of seconds I found a Connecticut-based company that carries what I was looking for. Although the mold cost $40, and shipping an extra $20, I figured that if the product wasn't a scam I could recoup that total in a couple of months.
Well, my tofu mold arrived yesterday afternoon. I was taken aback by how small it was, but was pleased that it came with several packs of nigari -- a coagulant derived from sea water and also known by the unappetizing scientific name of magnesium chloride -- and two cheesecloths for straining. (The mold, incidentally, is made from hinoki, or cedar wood, and its fragrance is like an early spring walk in the woods.) In the evening I went shopping for organic soybeans. (For those living in Honolulu, I found these at Kokua Market, 2643 S. King St.) A pound of these hard little yellow beans went for a mere $2.19. I splurged for a pound and a half and then raced home to soak my fresh new beans in water overnight.
I awoke at 6:30, and bam, it was tofu time! I unfolded the directions that came with my tofu mold and in 90 minutes I'd made two slabs of fresh tofu. What's more, it was delicious! Admittedly, it was too soft to cook with, but its softness made it perfect for a dessert I learned to love in Vietnam that uses hot ginger syrup (see below). There are many Japanese desserts that use soft tofu as well, so you can guess what I'll be eating after my meals for the next week or so. And not just that, but one byproduct from tofu-making is okara, which can be used in various dishes, too. (But more on that in a different post.)
With my second batch of beans I made soy milk. And one reason I'm sharing this is because I want people to know that they, too, can make soy milk without a tofu mold, and it's very easy to do.
Homemade Soy Milk Directions
1) Soak about a pound (400 g) of soybeans in water for at least 8 hours. (In the winter, soaking times are almost twice as long.)
3) Blend until the soybeans and liquid have reached a smooth, milkshake-like consistency.
If you want to make tofu, however, continue on to step 6.
Directions for Making Tofu (continued from steps 1-5)
6. Add nigari coagulant (or substitute with 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice) to soy milk and let sit for around 30 minutes. You will immediately see the soy milk curds separate from the whey. The more you stir it at this stage the firmer your tofu will end up. (I need to remember this for next time...)
Many of you have probably heard of recent studies indicating that tofu eaten in middle age may increase the likelihood of dementia or even brain shrinkage in later life. This may or may not be true. And until scientific research definitively bears one or the other truth out, I'll continue to eat tofu and drink soy milk, the more so now that I'm able to make it at home.