Tofu skin is a great alternative to the same old tofu. It’s got a firm but soft texture, unlike the spongy tofu. It’s sweeter, more flavorful, and concentrated. Serve with a little soy sauce and it becomes an easy and tasty side dish. Making tofu skin is easy, but takes a bit of time. All you need is soybean and water to create this delicacy.
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I remember the days when I hated tofu. I didn’t like the texture nor the way it tasted, but tofu skin, on the other hand, was my favorite. A lot of shops sell deep fried tofu skins so they are easy to store and those kinds are perfect for hot pots or noodle soups as they soak up all the flavor of the soup. It was my must-have hot pot ingredient when I was little.
As I grew older and found that the “raw” tofu skin is actually really tasty on its own as well! It’s sweet, full of bean flavor(but very different from tofu), and it doesn’t need much to make a tasty side dish. Soak it in any kind of braised meat you have going on or simply drizzle soy sauce, sesame oil and some spring onions or cilantro on top and it will transform into something that will wow the table. So simple, yet so delicate, it’s the beauty in many soybean related byproducts.
What’s tofu skin anyway? Have you ever heated a cup of milk and set it aside, later finding there’s a thin film on top of your milk? That’s basically how tofu skins are made, milk is replaced with soy milk in the process. The warm protein from the soy milk reacts to the colder air and turns into a solid film, then lifted up by a stick and the process repeats. I’m still surprised that someone thought of making it into a type of food of its own. It doesn’t look like much but tofu skin tastes like a very concentrated solid soy milk at it’s finest.
Here’s a video of a tofu skin factory in Taiwan. It is beautiful the way they’re made and hung up.
Back to the homemade version. What I really wanted to make is “豆包”(dou4bao1, tofu skin square)- which is basically a large tofu skin folded into a square shape to create layers in between, like a danish pastry but soft and in tofu form. Since my pot is quite small, compared to the factories, I couldn’t really have a film that big for me to layer, so I simply gathered my tofu skin together once I lifted them out of the pot to create some layers.
I really wanted or thought I NEEDED to make tofu skin is because that I wanted to make my mom’s famous vegan dumplings, which is a tradition for our Chinese new year dinner. Tofu skin is a key ingredient to her recipe, and I thought to myself: how hard can it be? Well, it wasn’t too hard but there’s still trial and error. I learned that the soy milk needs to be hot enough for the film to form and a double boiler is probably your best friend if you’re making it on a stove top. A double boiler/ boiling the soy milk over water will prevent the soy milk from burning at the bottom. I used both a stove top and a rice cooker to make my tofu skins, I figured it’s faster to have two pots going at the same time.
The Tatung rice cooker has definitely been my best friend during this whole soy milk making an adventure. It doesn’t boil over(leave a gap on the lid) and I don’t even have to be in the kitchen while the rice cooker get my soy milk ready for me. Like most people have a crockpot in the US, Taiwanese have rice cookers. My mom wanted me to stuff one in my suitcase when I was moving here! I bought one after I finally settled down instead. It cooks rice, makes soup, stews, bakes sweet potatoes, steam buns and I’ve seen people made fried rice in it.
It took me a while to find the right proportion of soy milk in order to really lift my tofu skin out of the pot and with better thickness and texture. I’d experimented for 2 days straight, and the first few times I made the soy milk too thick so the film becomes too thick and breaks easily when I attempted to lift them. Then I found that I didn’t need to intentionally make my soy milk thicker in order to create the tofu skin since the homemade soy milk I enjoy is already thicker than most and it was perfect. Keep making tofu skin till you have the desired amount and drink the rest of the soy milk as you would or turn in into tofu!
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- 1 C Organic Soy Beans
- 6 C Water
- Cover 1C Soybeans with at least 5 times the water and let it soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight. The soaked soybeans should be roughly the size of an edamame bean (That's the "fresh" soybean!) My soybeans came up to about 2.5C after being soaked
- Drain the soy beans
- Add the soy beans and 6C of water into a blender and blend on slow for 30 seconds then high for about 1 minute
- Strain the soy milk into a pot with a cheese cloth or any durable fabric. There are soy milk cloth, or I simply used my laundry bag. Squeeze and rinse out as much soy milk as you can. You might need to do it in a few times if making double the recipe.
- Move the soy milk pot to the stove top and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly as it's rich and thick the bottom gets burnt easily.
- The soy milk will foam up while heating up, it's not really boiling. It will take about 15 minutes to bring to a boil. Remove foam on top if necessary.
- Turn the heat down to low, just keeping the soy milk hot but not boiling. You can also use a double boiler or a rice cooker. The soy milk needs to be at about 80°C (180°F). You will start to see a film forming on top after about 2 minutes depending on how cold it it.
- After the whole layer is covered with tofu skin, using a chopstick, scrape the sides of the pot making sure that the film isn't sticking to the sides. Insert the chopstick underneath the tofu skin from the side and lift it up. Drain and place on a plate.
- Repeat the process until you have the desired amount of tofu skin.
- You can use the tofu skin as is or add 1 TBsp oil in a pan and fry the tofu skin until golden on both sides.
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