Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 125 – Tofu 1

Friday food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we are looking at tofu.

Until I came to China and visited a market, I was convinced that tofu (or beancurd, if you prefer) was tasteless, pointless, white wobbly stuff – an opinion of my acquaintance many people shared. How ignorant and wrong we were. While tofu can be white and wobbly and tasteless, we were missing the point. and it ain’t always white and wobbly. Or tasteless.

But first:

“Tofu”  is actually the Japanese pronunciation, but they borrowed it from the Chinese 豆腐. (Less usually the character 荳 is used – same pronunciation.) The term ‘beancurd’ is mostly restricted to American usage.

Tofu is made from soy beans.

Fresh Soy Beans

It is usually made from dried beans which are soaked, ground, boiled and strained to produce soy milk. This milk is then coagulated using one of a number of different types of coagulant. The resulting curds are then drained or pressed to remove excess liquid.

The white wobbly stuff known to most people is the most common variety in China.


Generally known as soft or “silken” tofu, in Chinese it is 嫩豆腐 which means ‘soft tofu’. White, wobbly silken tofu comes in a range of softness, depending on long it has been drained or how firmly pressed. This decides how it is to be used. The point of the stiff is that it absorbs the flavours of whatever it is cooked with.

The softest, 豆花, or 豆腐花,  literally ‘tofu flowers’, is often used in desserts sold on the streets of Liuzhou and other cities. It is eaten with a spoon.


Tofu Flower (豆腐花) seller, Liuzhou


Tofu Flower (豆腐花)

Slightly firmer silken tofu is used in soups and hotpots etc and is essential in the famous Sichuan dish, Mapo Doufu (麻婆豆腐), where it is prepared with (traditionally) minced beef, chilli bean sauce, copious chilli peppers and Sichuan peppercorns etc. Recipe here.

mapo dofu

Mapo Tofu

Firmer tofu is produced by longer pressing. Here we get into a huge range of preparations. Here is but one corner of the tofu section of my local market.


What follows is a selection of examples of firm tofu which I could pick up in Liuzhou this week.

Dried Doufu

Dried Doufu

White dried tofu

White Dried Doufu

Dried doufu (豆腐干) is  usually cut into strips and stir fried.

Sometimes it is pre-flavoured. This is Five Spice Dried Tofu (五香豆腐干)

Five Spice Tofu - 五香干

Five Spice Tofu – 五香干

White and brown tofu is made into these attractive layer cakes. Again they are sliced and used in stir fries.

Dried tofu layer cake

Tofu Layer Cake

One of my favourites is this smoked tofu. Don’t tell me it has no taste.

smoked tofu

Smoked Tofu

Tofu is cut into shreds to resemble noodles.


Tofu “Noodles”

And finally, for now, tofu is deep fried. It is cut into cubes, sticks, triangles and all sorts of shapes then fried. They are then usually added to hot pots or can be stuffed.

stuffed tofu 2

Deep Fried Tofu Cubes

I have, here, barely scratched the surface. There are a thousand other variations to which I will return one day.

See also:

Friday Food 16 – Furu

Friday Food 99 – Fu Zhu

Friday Food 111 – Stinky Tofu

. This entry was posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Friday Food 125 – Tofu 1”

  1. Former LZ LaoWai Says:

    Ken. I am so disappointed that in all of the lovely DouFu options, you left out one of the most memorable. Chou Dou Fu. You’re letting your readers down by omitting this fragrant streetside delicacy. (Yuk)

  2. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    I didn’t leave it out.

    See the end of the entry where there is a link to the separate entry Friday Food 111 – Stinky Tofu

  3. Friday Food 127 – Dried Egg | Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    […] it. Instead of powdering the eggs, they make it into blocks very much resembling the smoked tofu I mentioned two weeks ago. It is known as 鸡蛋干, dried chicken […]

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