MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 April) – Cooking is fun. And yes, it can be more fun if you try something that’s quite new to your palate. Maybe most of the ingredients are the usual stuff you see on the recipe book, but for a change, how about getting rid of that ubiquitous meat or fish from the list and replace it with that whitish cube called tofu?
Believed to have originated in China around 200 BC, tofu is perhaps the most widely used soy food in the world and the most common meat substitute. A warning though, it isn’t good for those who have rheumatism or arthritis. If you don’t have this disease, I suggest you try inventing a recipe or two with tofu. But if you don’t want to spend time thinking, the Internet offers many ideas on what to do with those gelatinous cubes.
On Sunday, a friend in the neighboring subdivision taught two simple tofu recipes: tofu cooked in coconut milk, and tofu barbecue. Having become a ginataan and barbecue addict since childhood, I could not resist coming to the free session on vegetarian recipes that offers a respite from our usual diet. I do like vegetables, but it usually comes with either fish or meat.
For the ginataan tofu, the only part that takes several minutes is grating the coconut and squeezing the milk out of it. As with your other ginataan favorites, squeeze the grated coconut twice – first without water, and the second with water.
The rest can be done even by six-year-olds: wrapping the 2×2-inch tofu cubes with Chinese pechay leaves, and preparing spices that include lemon grass and strips of bell pepper and ginger. Never mind about measured proportions of spices and other ingredients. My aunt, a chef of no mean ability, said a good cook relies on estimates.
Use the diluted milk in cooking the tofu to the desired softness. Except for the salt and the pure coconut milk, all of the ingredients can be placed into the kettle at once. Put salt and natural seasoning when the soup starts to boil. The pure coconut milk is added once the tofu is cooked, and put off the fire a few seconds after it boils. Allowing the pure gata to boil longer will bring out the oil that will spoil the taste.
As for the barbecue, it’s better to use a softer kind of tofu called gluten, which is sold in malls and department stores. Marinade the gluten in a mix of soy sauce, ketchup, black pepper, mushroom seasoning, and olive oil or sesame oil. Boil the excess marinading sauce for basting when you start cooking the barbecues atop coal embers.
Faye Tulang, our vegetarian instructor, offered another advice: eat red rice. She said a little amount of this kind of rice makes us feel already full. Maybe she’s right because I felt I had enough after a cup and didn’t ask for a second serving. Now that’s good news for diabetics and weight watchers. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno / MindaNews)