Varieties of Tofu


There is a wide variety of tofu available in the both western and eastern markets. Despite the daunting variety, tofu products can be split into two main categories: fresh tofu, which is produced directly from soy milk, and processed tofu, which is produced from fresh tofu. Tofu production also creates important side products which are often used in various cuisines.

Soft/silken tofu (嫩豆腐 or 滑豆腐, nèn doùfu or huá doùfu, in Chinese, lit. “soft tofu” or “smooth tofu”; 絹漉し豆腐, kinugoshi tōfu in Japanese, lit. “silk-filtered tofu”; 순두부, sundubu in Korean):

This undrained tofu contains the highest moisture content of all fresh tofus [4] Its texture can be described as similar to that of very fine custard. In Korea and Japan, traditional soft tofu is made with seawater. Tofu flower (豆花, doù huā or 豆腐花, doùfu huā in Chinese), or tofu brain (豆腐腦, doùfu naǒ in Chinese), often eaten as a dessert, but sometimes with salty pickles or hot sauce added instead, is another type of soft tofu with an even higher moisture content. Because it is nearly impossible to pick up this type of tofu with chopsticks, it is generally eaten with a spoon.
Asian firm tofu (simply called 豆腐 doùfu in Chinese; 木綿豆腐, momendōfu in Japanese, lit. “cotton tofu”):

Although drained and pressed, this form of fresh tofu still contains a great amount of moisture. It has the firmness of raw meat but bounces back readily when pressed. The texture of the inside of the tofu is similar to that of a firm custard. The skin of this form of tofu has the pattern of the muslin used to drain it and is slightly more resilient to damage than its inside. Can be picked up easily with chopsticks.

Western firm/dried tofu (豆乾, doù gān in Chinese, lit. “dry tofu”):

An extra firm variety of tofu with the least amount of moisture of all fresh tofus. It has the firmness of fully cooked meat and a somewhat rubbery feel similar to paneer. When sliced thinly, this tofu can be crumbled easily. The skin of this form of tofu has the pattern of the muslin used to drain and press it. Western firm tofu is milled and reformed after the pressing and sometimes lacks the skin with its cloth patterning. One variety of dried tofu pressed especially flat and is sliced into long strings with a cross section smaller than 2 mm × 2 mm. Shredded dried tofu (荳乾絲, doù gān sī in Chinese), which looks like loose cooked noodles, and can be served cold, stir-fried, or similar in style to Japanese aburage.

Processed tofu

Many forms of processed tofus exist, due to the varied ways in which fresh tofu can be used. Some of these techniques likely originate from the need to preserve tofu before the days of refrigeration, or to increase its shelf life and longevity. Other production techniques are employed to create tofus with unique textures and flavours .


Pickled tofu (豆腐乳 in Chinese, pinyin: dòufu rǔ, lit. “tofu dairy”, or 腐乳; chao in Vietnamese):

Also called “preserved tofu” or “fermented tofu”, they are cubes of dried tofu that have been allowed to fully air-dry under hay and slowly ferment from aerial bacteria [7]. The dry fermented tofu is then soaked in salt water, Chinese wine, vinegar, and minced chiles, or a unique mixture of whole rice, bean paste, and soybeans. In the case of red pickled tofu (紅豆腐乳 in Chinese, Pinyin: hóng dòufu rǔ), pulverized red dates (jujube) or fermented red rice (cultivated with Monascus purpureus) are added for color. Pickled tofu has a special mouth feel similar to certain dairy products due to the breakdown of its proteins which takes place during the air drying and fermentation. Since it does not have a strong odor by itself, pickled tofu takes on the smells and taste of its soaking liquid. The texture of pickled tofu resembles a firm, smooth paste not unlike cold cream cheese. (Indeed, this kind of tofu is sometimes called “Chinese cheese” in English). Pickled tofu usually has a very strong salty or spicy flavor, very much similar to many Chinese pickled vegetables, As such, it often eaten as an accompaniment to a plain dish, and is a popular side dish during breakfast when eaten with rice congee. Pickled tofu is generally sold in small glass jars and when refrigerated, it can keep for several years, during which time its flavor is believed to improve.

Stinky tofu (臭豆腐 in Chinese, Pinyin: chòu dòufu):

A soft tofu that has been fermented in a unique vegetable and fish brine [7]. The blocks of tofu smell strongly of certain pungent cheeses, and are described by many as rotten and fecal. Despite its strong odour, the flavour and mouth-feel of stinky tofu is appreciated by aficionados, who describe it as delightful. The texture of this tofu is similar to the soft Asian tofu that it is made from. The rind that stinky tofu develops from frying is said to be especially crisp, and is usually served with soy sauce, sweet sauce and/or hot sauce.


Common sweet dessert tofus include peanut tofu (落花生豆腐, luòhuā shēng doùfu in Chinese and jimami-dōfu in Japanese), almond tofu (杏仁豆腐, xìng rén doùfu in Chinese; 杏仁豆腐, annindōfu in Japanese), mango tofu, and coconut tofu. In order to produce these forms of tofu, sugar, fruit acids, and flavourants are mixed into soy milk prior to curdling. Most sweet tofus have the texture of silken tofu and are served cold.
o Products called “almond tofu” in some cases are actually not made from tofu but are instead gelatinous desserts made from agar or gelatin and whitened with milk or coconut milk. In Japan these are canned with syrup and sold as a sweet dessert.


Egg tofu (蛋豆腐; dàn doùfu, in Chinese) (玉子豆腐; yù zǐ doùfu; lit. jade tofu, in Chinese) is the main type of savory flavoured tofu. Whole beaten eggs are filtered and incorporated into the soy milk before the coagulant is added. The mixture is filled into tube shaped plastic bags and allowed to curdle. The tofu is then cooked in its packaging and sold. Egg tofu has a pale golden colour that can be attibuted to the addition of egg and, occasionally, food colouring. This tofu has a fuller texture and flavour then silken tofu, which can be attributed to the presence of egg fat and protein.


* With the exception of the softest tofus, all forms of tofu can be fried. Thin and soft varieties of tofu are deep fried in oil until they are light and airy in their core (豆泡 in Chinese, dòupào, lit. “bean soak”, describing the way the tofu absorbs liquid).
* Tofus such as firm Asian and dry tofu, with their lower moisture content, are cut into bite-sized cubes or triangles and deep fried until they develop a golden-brown, crispy surface (炸豆腐 in Chinese, jadòufu, lit. “fried tofu”). These may be eaten by themselves or with a light sauce, or further cooked in liquids; they are also added to hot pot dishes or included as part of the vegetarian dish called luohan zhai.

Thousand layer tofu (千葉豆腐 or 冰豆腐 in Chinese, lit. “thousand layer tofu” or “frozen tofu”):

By freezing tofu, the large ice crystals that develop within the tofu results in the formation of large cavities that appear to be layered. The frozen tofu takes on a yellowish hue in the freezing process. Thousand layer tofu is commonly made at home from Asian soft tofu though it is also commercially sold as a regional specialty in parts of Taiwan. This tofu is defrosted and squeezed of moisture prior to use. [6]

Japanese freeze-dried tofu (kōyadōfu, 高野豆腐 in Japanese):

The name comes from Mount Koya, a center of Japanese Buddhism famed for its shōjin ryōri, or traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. It is excellent for camping, in that it is very light, may be sold flattened, and makes a very filling nutritious meal on the road. Like many freeze-dried foods, it is soaked in hot water or broth before eating, taking on a spongy texture when reconstituted. Freeze-dried tofu is also found in instant soups (such as miso soup), in which the toppings are freeze-dried and stored in sealed pouches


1 Comment

  1. Vivette blackwell said,

    May 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    What is tan tan tofu?

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