Tofu, doofu, bean curd, huh?
March 16, 2007 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Help an American find different kinds of tofu in China.

A vegan buddy from a message board I frequent is working in China. He is trying to buy firm, water-pack tofu like he gets at home so that he can stir-fry it, or freeze and crumble it. He’s not having much luck, however. When he asks for tofu or doofu, people don’t seem to know what he’s asking for, and when he asks for bean curd, he gets something like silken tofu, which has completely different uses.

Here is Brian’s question on VegPeople.

What should he be asking for?

Normally, I’d just send him here to ask himself, but this seems easier on everyone. I promise not to twist anyone’s words.
posted by found dog one eye to Food & Drink (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
wikipedia has doufu as the standard for firm tofu (I think!), and nen doufu and douhua as the softer kinds. It does list 荳乾 as "dry tofu", but I'll be damned if I know anything about that. My 'How to read chinese restaurant menus' book also seems to suggest that firm tofu is the default. and googling in chinese seems to say 'doufu' is firm, too!

From his romanizing it as doo-fu, maybe he's pronouncing it incorrectly? Definitely a d'oh, not a doo.
posted by soma lkzx at 4:54 PM on March 16, 2007

Best answer: There's various sorts (vegan in China here), and your friend will probably find them at those cold counters staffed by scary looking middled aged ladies who then usually turn out to be really friendly and helpful (as they laugh at your silly accent):
smoked tofu is quite firm and suitable for frying (you often get it in restaurants done with celery and nuts) - it's called 熏干儿(xungan'r pronounced a bit like 'shun garr')
the sheets of skin skimmed off the top of setting tofu are called 豆腐皮 (dofupi - pronounced 'd'oe foo pee', though in Beijing they add eryin to lots of things so it can sound like 'doe foo peer' - this might not be the case in Dalian.
The frozen tofu you get in hotpots that soaks up flavours so well is called 冻豆腐 dongdoufu pronounced dong doe foo.
The strips they do as a cold starter are 豆腐丝 doufusi pron. doe fu ssu.

There's probably more but not springing to mind. Note I'm from the north of England so my attempts at phonetics above might be out of whack with his. The dou I'd go for a sound between Homer Simpson's 'd'oh' and 'doe, a deer,' the 'fu' you can even drop the vowel altogether rolling doufu into something like 'dowff,' but my method was always to keep repeating until the point got across or one or other party gave up :D.

He should check around the cold shelves for other stuff too - vegetarianism is making a big comeback here and there various fake meat/tofu things in my local shops which make for good noodles and fry-ups. If he can recognise the character 素 su (pron soo) he's golden. They even do fake sausages and mince round my way.
posted by Abiezer at 5:19 PM on March 16, 2007

Forgot to add - for plain white firm dofu, your friend should be able to see it for sale in big blocks at those cold counters in supermarkets, and he can point and ask for so many jin (a jin is 500g or about a pound)
posted by Abiezer at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2007

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