Walking through Asian grocery stores, one of the most overwhelming sections (other than, perhaps, the sauce aisle) is the selection of tofu products. There’s soft tofu and firm tofu in the familiar plastic boxes, but then there’s firm spiced tofu, tofu knots, fried fluffy soy puffs, fried dense soy puffs, tofu skin, and more. What does one do with all of these tofu products? Today, we’ll tackle your questions about “tofu skin.”
What Is Tofu Skin?
So what is tofu skin? It is the layer of film that forms on the top of soy milk when it is boiled. If you’ve ever noticed the layer of film that forms on top of dairy milk when heated, tofu skin is the vegan version of the same thing.
When shopping, you can look for its many Chinese names: 腐皮 (fu-pi), 腐衣 (fu-yi), and 腐竹 (fu-zhu). Or, you can search by the many English names: “tofu sheets,” “tofu sticks,” “bean curd sheets,” or “bean threads.”
You can buy it in large fresh sheets, which can be thinly sliced, dried, or tied into knots. Of course, there are unique applications with each.
How Are They Used?
Fresh tofu skins are commonly used in cold Asian salads and quick stir-fries, because they’re already cooked and ready to eat.
The large sheets of tofu skin that you find in the freezer section are usually applied as wrappers––like the beancurd rolls that are served as dim sum dishes (xian-zhu-juan, 鲜竹卷).
As for the dried bean sticks, the applications are pretty much endless once they’ve been re-hydrated: in stir-fries, soups, braises, or salads.
Today, I wanted to introduce you to tofu skin with a basic dish: Stir-fried Bok Choy with Tofu Skin. If you’ve only ever had plain boxed tofu, you’re missing out by not trying other types! So far, our non-Chinese friends’ reactions to it have been rave reviews! There will be more recipes to follow, but this one is a great place to start!
NOTE: If you don’t have access to fresh tofu skins, you can also use the dry soybean stick/threads. If you’re using dried, soak in cold water until softened (this will take a few hours). After soaking, blanch the tofu skins in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, and they’re ready to cook with.
Bok Choy with Tofu Skin: Recipe Instructions
Now add the water and fresh tofu skins (bean threads). Do not stir! It’s important to keep the tofu skin on top of the bok choy so that it doesn’t touch the wok (or it will stick). Cover the wok with the lid, and steam for a minute.
Then open the lid, drizzle in the cornstarch mixture, and stir-fry gently to mix everything together.
Stir Fried Bok Choy with Tofu Skin (腐皮青菜)
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon ginger (minced)
- 5 cloves garlic (chopped)
- ¾ pound bok choy (thoroughly washed and drained)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ pack of fresh tofu skin (cut into bite-sized pieces, about 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (dissolved in 2 tablespoons water)
- Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the ginger, and cook for about 30 seconds before adding the garlic.
- After a few seconds, turn up the heat to high, and add the bok choy. Stir-fry everything together. When the bok choy has begun to wilt, stir in the salt, sugar, sesame oil, and white pepper.
- Now add the water and fresh tofu skins. Do not stir! It’s important to keep the tofu skin on top of the bok choy so that it doesn’t touch the wok (or it will stick). Cover the wok with the lid, and steam for a minute.
- Then open the lid, drizzle in the cornstarch mixture, and stir-fry gently to mix everything together.