Making Tofu from Scratch
Making tofu was something that I never thought I would do. Because I grew up with this firm beancurd as it was always available around me if I wanted to.
Then when I moved thousands of miles away from Indonesia, I admitted that I had taken Tahu – as we call it in Indonesian- for granted.
Even though it is now easy to buy tofu from most supermarkets, it was not the case when I just relocated more than 15 years ago. I had to make my own tofu from scratch if I fancied it. Or, I had to go to Chinatown to buy it so I couldn’t really get hold of it easily.
Over the years, I tried and tested many recipes to make my own tofu at home. Because I like the idea of being able to make it and enjoy it whenever I want to, without having to travel far to Chinatown.
But I didn’t find one recipe that drives me to make it again and again. So every time, I was always on trial. Until recently, during the lockdown.
Thanks to the pandemic, I had to put more effort into making tofu that I really like.
And everything just clicked when I understood what it is that can make my tofu tasty.
The secret of making tasty tofu
It hit me that the Indonesian tofu that I was accustomed to was slightly salty. Also, the Indonesians have yellow tofu that is cooked in spiced turmeric.
Therefore, Tahu Kuning – yellow tofu in Indonesia is ever so tasty.
I now understand that the ratio of water and Soybeans make a difference in the texture and flavour of the tofu.
The higher you put Soybeans in the mixture, the more flavour you get from your tofu.
Plus, you want to make sure you have good quality muslin cloth and at least double fold it when you sieve the soya milk. So that your tofu texture will be fine, soft and smooth.
The three ingredients
You will only need the Soybeans, water and coagulant.
If possible, try to get dried organic Soybeans as they are tastier than the non-organic ones. The funny thing is I find the price of the two has no much discrepancies. So I always go for organic ones now. And if you buy in bulk, you get more value for the price you pay.
Water is quite self-explanatory, right? ?
As for tofu coagulant, there are two types:
- Magnesium Chloride is also called Nigari powder. This coagulant is used to make silken soft tofu. Just like the Japanese style one.
- Calcium Sulphate. This coagulant is more commonly used. It makes the firm and extra firm tofu. You can make soft tofu as well with this coagulant, but the texture is slightly different from the silken one. This type of coagulant is used widely in Indonesia. So I’m used to this firm texture type of tofu.
How to make
It is pretty straightforward to make tofu. All you do is, make the soya milk and mix the coagulant with it. Then put the mixture in the mould to set. That’s it. Easy, isn’t it?
Firstly, you soak the Soybeans overnight. Then you blend it with water until you get a smooth Soybeans mixture.
Note here: you can then sieve this mixture using double folded muslin cloth before you cook this raw soya milk. But I personally like to boil it before sieving. Because I like using the Soybeans pulp – that is also called Okara – to make Oncom. I will share how to make Oncom next time.
Secondly, you boil the milk. Make sure you keep an eye on the temperature of the milk when it gets to 100°C/ 212°F. Because you want to sort of pasteurise the milk by keeping it at this temperature for about 10 minutes.
At the same time, you have to keep stirring and mixing to prevent the milk curdling and getting hard at the bottom of the pan.
Then you turn the heat off and let the milk temperature cool down to 80°C/ 176°F.
Next, you sieve the milk. Please be careful when you squeeze the pulp/ Okara as the milk temperature is still hot at 80°C/ 176°F.
Thirdly, you dissolve the coagulant with a little bit of water (about ¼ cup) and then mix it with the soya milk. Just give a few thorough stirs. A note of caution, don’t overmix the coagulant as it can break the tofu texture and cause your tofu making to fail.
Lastly, you want to pour the mixture into the mould and let it set.
If you want to make Tahu Kuning (yellow tofu), all you have to do is boil your readily set tofu in spiced turmeric water. And then let it rest overnight. Easy peasy. The secret lies in the proportion of your spices and salt. ?
As for the mould, you can get it from the Asian shop in Chinatown or get it online. I just use the colander that I brought from Indonesia. You can do the same if you want. But make sure you get a good quality muslin cloth.
How to store
If you make firm tofu, you can use it pretty much in all sorts of cooking as it is quite versatile. My favourite way is to just deep fry for a few minutes and then enjoy it with sweet soy sauce that is mixed with chopped chillies. Or, if I have time and energy ?, I sometimes make stuffed tofu, Tahu Isi.
But if you don’t want to use your tofu straightaway, you can store it in a container and fill the water in to cover it all. Keep it refrigerated. It can stay fresh for about one week in the fridge. And you can freeze it to keep it as long as three months.
I never make it that long as hubby and kids love tofu. So they will polish them as soon as they find out I make some. And often I never cook it first. Because as my little one says, it’s technically cooked anyway.
Thank you for reading the post. I hope you’re now interested in trying to make your very own tofu. Let me know in the comments below what you think about this tutorial. I really appreciate it if you do that.
Before you go, don’t forget to check out my recipes that you can try with your tofu.
- Ketoprak Jakarta – vermicelli, bean sprouts and tofu salad with spicy peanuts dressing.
- Gado-Gado – mixed vegetables salad with peanut sauce.
- Mie Goreng: Indonesian stir-fried noodles.
- Asinan Jakarta – crispy salad with spicy peanuts and tamarind.
Thank you and all the best.
How to Make Tofu
- Mixing bowls.
- Muslin cloth.
- Cooking pan
- Wooden spoon
- Tofu mould.
For firm tofu:
- 1 ½ cup dried organic soybeans.
- 9 cups water, and extra for soaking.
- 2 ½ teaspoons tofu coagulant/ calcium sulphate.
- 1 teaspoon salt optional.
For soft Chinese tofu:
- 1 ½ cups dried organic Soybeans.
- 10 cups water, and extra for soaking.
- 2 teaspoons tofu coagulant/ calcium sulphate for Chinese tofu, or
For silken Japanese tofu:
- 1½ cups dried organic soyabeans.
- 10 cups water, and extra for soaking.
- 2 teaspoons tofu Nigari powder/ magnesium chloride
For yellow tofu:
- 5 cups water.
- 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder.
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander.
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder.
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt.
- Wash and rinse the Soybeans. Then place them in a big mixing bowl and fill with plenty of water up to three-quarters of the bowl. Leave it to soak overnight.
- On the next day, drain the Soybeans and rinse a few times. Using a blender, blend the beans with 9 cups of water for firm tofu, and 10 cups of water for soft tofu. Do this in 6 batches until all of the water is finished. Make sure you blend until you get smooth Soybeans mixture.
- Put the mixture in a large cooking pan, attach your cooking thermometer on the side of the pan and turn the heat on at moderate-high. Take care and keep stirring so that the mixture will not get burned at the bottom of the pan.
- Keep an eye on the thermometer. Once the temperature reaches 100°C/ 212°F, turn the heat down and try to keep this temperature of 100°C/ 212°F for about 10 minutes. At the same time, continue stirring and mixing every now and again.
- If you’re making firm tofu and you like your tofu to have a bit of flavour, you can put half of a teaspoon of salt at this point. I do. But it is optional. Freedom of choice for you ?.
- Then let the milk cool down to 80°C/ 176°F. Using a double folded muslin cloth, sieve the soya milk carefully as it is still hot.
- Quickly mix the coagulant/ calcium sulphate with ¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 2.11 fl. oz of water in a small bowl until the coagulant well dissolves. And pour it into your Soya milk. Stir it carefully but quickly making sure it’s all well mixed. Leave it to rest for about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, you can get your tofu mould and muslin cloth ready. Put the tofu in a basin or a deep baking tray.
- By now, your milk mixture will be slightly set, and there will be some transparent liquid set apart. Then slowly pour this tofu mixture over your mould that is lined with a muslin cloth. Fold the cloth to cover the tofu. Then put the mould lid on and put a weight on it for about 5 minutes. After that, you can take the weight off, and just leave the tofu to set. It usually takes me another 10-15 minutes before I can open the muslin cloth.
To make yellow tofu (Tahu Kuning ala Yun Yi):
- Cut your firm tofu about 2-inches squares or triangles. Set aside.
- In a large pan, boil 1 ¼ litre/ 42.27 fl. oz of water with turmeric powder, ground coriander, garlic powder and salt. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes before you put your tofu pieces in.
- Cook the tofu in the turmeric water and let it simmer for about 15 minutes from the moment the water reaches boiling point again. Then turn the heat off and leave the tofu in turmeric water overnight.
- Next morning, you can discard the turmeric water and replace with fresh water if you have no plan to cook your tofu right away.
- The weight that you put on top of the lid will press the tofu mixture and help release its liquid. So, the heavier the weight you put, the more condensed your tofu texture will become. Also, the longer you put the weight on the lid, the firmer your tofu will be. The timing that I refer to in this tutorial is only a guide to getting firm tofu.
- If you want to make soft tofu, you can just simply use the proportion of the ingredients for soft tofu and use the same method above. However, don’t put weight on the mold lid for too long when you leave the tofu mixture to set.
- To make yellow tofu, you have to use firm tofu. Else, tofu will break when you cook it in turmeric water.
- Always double-fold your muslin cloth, so that the mixture will be really fine and smooth.
- To make Soya milk, you can follow the recipe method up to step 4. I personally find that the recipe for firm tofu will make a creamier Soya Milk that reminds me of the full whole milk. And the recipe for soft tofu will give me Soya Milk that resembles green semi-skimmed milk. It’s kinda lighter.