December 5, 2017
Homemade "momen" tofu using a metal strainer - with step-by-step photos and instructions. It's easier than you think! The tofu made with a round strainer may not look as pretty as the store-bought ones, but much tastier. Plus, you can enjoy the bonus products of soy pulp and whey.
1Soak the soy beans in filtered water for 12-24 hours.
2Throw away the soaking water. Give the beans a quick wash. Drain, and put them in a blender. Add about 1 litre of the filtered water, and keep the rest in a jug. This is just because most blenders can't hold all 1.6 liters of water at one time.
3Blend the beans and water. It takes about 30 seconds in my high-speed blender. You don't need the beans to liquify though.
4Empty the blended soy beans/water into the largest pot you have. Use the remaining water (that didn't fit into the blender) to rinse out the blender, and add it to the pot. Put a lid on the pot (to speed up the cooking time). Set your timer to about 8 minutes (in case you walk away from the kitchen), and start heating the pot at medium-high heat.
5While the soy mixture is heating up, prepare for the next step. Place your metal strainer over a deep bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean cloth, like a tea towel or muslin. Get a container ready nearby to store soy pulp.
6After about 8 minutes, the bean mixture should be close to boiling. Turn the heat down a bit, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom so burned bits don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Don't walk away at this point, and keep heating and stirring till the soy mix reaches a boiling point. You can tell immediately because the whole thing starts to rise up the pot, threatening to overlfow (and it will, if you let it!)
7Turn the heat down to low. Re-set the timer to 5 minutes. Then keep stirring/scraping with the wooden spoon, to prevent overflowing (and if it does, well, you are not alone. I've done this so many times. Just continue with the recipe and clean up without despairing - you'll still have some yummy tofu). You need to cook the beans here because raw beans are indigestible.
8When the timer goes off, pour the soy mixture over the cloth-covered strainer. Leave it to cool a bit, so you can squeeze the pulp out. This takes about 20 -30 minutes. You want the soy mix not too hot (it'll burn your hands), and not too cold (it'll be more difficult to squeeze when cold).
9Wash the pot meanwhile. But since you'll be using the same pot again to heat up soy milk soon, it doesn't have to spotless clean at this point.
10When the soy mix is cool enough, squeeze it to get as much soy milk out of it as you can. Think of it as a good workout!
11Now you have rich, creamy soy milk, and a chunk of pulp ("okara") left in the cloth. Store okara in a container, and keep that in the fridge for another dish. Pour the soy milk back into the (clean) pot. Wash your hands and give the cloth a quick rinse (you'll be using the cloth again soon).
12Heat up the soy milk at medium heat. It won't take long this time to heat up, so don't walk away from the kitchen. You want the milk to nearly reach the boiling point. You can tell by the tiny bubbles forming up around the edges, and then the surface of the milk start to move.
13While waiting for the soy milk to heat up, dissolve a scant 2/3 teaspoon of nigari flakes in about 1/4 cup of filtered water. Put the strainer and cloth over the bowl again. You are nearly at the end!
14When the soy milk is nearly at the boil, turn off the heat. Pour the nigari water into the pot, and give it a very quick stir with a spoon or spatula. Now leave it alone for 15-30 minutes, without stirring or moving the pot. You can leave it like this for an hour or more if you like.
15Magic happens while you wait - nigari coagulates the tofu, just like when you make ricotta cheese. After about 15 minutes, you can see gorgeous white tofu floating in a clear, yellowish liquid (whey).
16Gently pour the tofu/whey combo into the strainer lined with cloth. Let it strain naturally, without disturbing it, for 15-30 minutes. Or if you are impatient, you can give the cloth a gentle squeeze to help strain the tofu a bit faster. The longer you let it naturally strain or squeeze the whey out of the tofu, the firmer it gets. So you can adjust the consistency of your tofu to an extent here, depending on what you plan to use it for.
17Ta-da! This is your tofu. It may not look like a pretty rectangle tofu you get at shops (having used a round metal strainer for shaping), but it is way tastier. I now use a rectangle metal strainer that I found in Japan to make rectangle tofu - so experiment with what you have around your kitchen next time.
18If you are not eating or using the tofu right away, gently store it in a container, and cover with a bit of water to keep it from drying out. Store in the fridge till needed. It'll keep for up to 5 days or so.
19Finally... don't throw out the whey! You can use it as soup stock - for miso soup, curry, vegetable soup, sauces, etc. Whey is tasty and nutritious. Also, I love using it in lieu of water when making bread. It makes the most fluffy, wonderful bread dough.
If the whey looks a little milky, and not clear, don't worry about it. You still have most of the tofu there. Next time though, make sure the soy milk is nearly at the boil before adding nigari water. You can try using a bit more nigari flakes as well, but nigari tastes bitter, so if you use too much, you'll end up with a bitter-tasting tofu and whey.
I make tofu while cooking breakfast or dinner - or while doing other food preps, just so I can keep an eye on the initial cooking process and avoid unfortunate overflowing accidents.
Also, you don't have to make tofu in one go. Do it in stages. Blend up the soaked beans in the morning, cook it at lunchtime, and finish it at dinnertime, etc. You can even keep the soy milk in the fridge (and drink a bit of it for your coffee) overnight, and use the remaining milk to make tofu the next day.