Tofu makers, give me your tips
February 1, 2013 3:01 AM   Subscribe

I have been making my own tofu for awhile now, with highly mixed results - some days it is great, other days it is an un-holy disaster. Help me make it great every time.

This is pretty much how I do it. Currently I make two batches due to limitations of how much soymilk I can make at each go:
- Use my Soy Quick to make soymilk. Strain, and it is pretty much at the right temperature to make tofu.
- I dissolve my nigari at a ratio of one teaspoon per cup of water, then add half a cup of this liquid to the soymilk, stirring gently.
- Leave milk to coagulate. On a bad day, this doesn't really happen properly, but on a good day it is all fine.
- Pour mixture into tofu press and then press.

Usually, if the soymilk coagulates okay everything is fine. But often it doesn't. I am not sure what is variable here (other than maybe the planets being in the wrong alignment or something*) which means sometimes it is fine sometimes it isn't. Any ideas?

If you have any tips, ideas, want to share how you make tofu, please share.

And yes, I have read Shurtleff's 'The Book of Tofu' (I have it, and the miso book, and the tempeh book. They are all great).

*Yes, I was joking ...
posted by Megami to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I had no idea that tofu and soymilk were so easy to make.

Apparently the problem you're having is pretty common. Maki from the Just Hungry blog pretty much described the same thing in her article about making tofu.

I skimmed the comments but didn't really see any solutions to getting consistent results.
posted by Gev at 8:06 AM on February 1, 2013

While this tip is not from a particularly experienced tofu maker, it is from a person with a lot of experience observing and trying to troubleshoot finicky, near-random food behavior while cooking with seemingly unpredictable ingredients (because veganism can often require as much). EX: Learning after dozens of attempts that seitan needs more kneading for better consistency when kitchen humidity levels are low.

:turns on 'what would I do?' mode:
The only variable I can imagine causing the problem here would be the temperature of the water in which you are dissolving the nigari before adding it to the soymilk. Is the nigari water you're using consistently the same temperature when you add it to the soymilk? If not, try only using lukewarm water or only cold water and see if the coagulation rates improve or decline.

If that doesn't help solve the mystery, Andrea Nguyen and her Asian Tofu website/cookbook might be of additional assistance. Good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 9:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The variables include the type and quality of the beans, the strength of the nigari, the temperature of the water, the temperature of the soy milk, and the humidity in the kitchen. Also you mention only using half a cup of the liquid when you make a full cup of dissolved nigari. Are you using half for one batch and then half the next? Is the nigari fully dissolved and evenly dispersed before you pour it?

My first steps would be to monitor the temperature of the water and shift to using a weight measurement for the nigari and water. You'll get more consistent results if you can be more precise. I would also mix only as much as you need for one batch and ensure that all of the nigiri you measured out gets thoroughly dissolved and mixed in.

Nigari is pretty notoriously fickle and if you want to make it the traditional way you're going to have to either start taking notes of what works and what doesn't or resign yourself to a certain ratio of failures. Some Japanese chefs have moved towards setting tofu with agar agar (a seaweed extract which is available in sheet or powder form) which is less finicky. The key with agar is activation temperature, you're going to want to bring it to a boil and keep it there for a few minutes, stirring, before it will set when cooled. If it doesn't set you can always re-heat and try again.
Good luck!
posted by hindmost at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2013

My partner has just started making it too and hasn't had any problems with it coagulating, but she's using gypsum instead of nigari. Just a data point, I guess.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:08 PM on February 1, 2013

I've been wanting to try making tofu, but i have made cheese a few times and I think troubleshooting the coagulation should be pretty similar.

After you've waited a decent amount of time, checked temps, etc and no coagulation has happened, add more coagulant! Wait again and see if something happens. If nothing happens, you've at least pin-pointed the source, the coagulant.

Like you said, there are many variables, moon phases, etc, but I think the best way to tackle something like this is to control for the biggest factors (temp, and ingredient freshness/measurements), then play the rest of it by ear.
posted by fontophilic at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2013

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