Dried beancurd sticks might not sound or look like the most enticing ingredient at the Asian market, but when you know how to prepare them – and it isn't hard – they just might become one of your go-to ingredients for braises, stir fries, soups, and salads. Dried beancurd sticks, also known as dried tofu skin, yuba, fu zhu, or bamboo tofu, are made from the skin that forms on the surface of boiled soy milk. (Get a glimpse of the process in our tour of Hodo Soy Beanery.) I grew up eating them prepared by my father, a Chinese-Vietnamese chef. Whenever I spotted a bowl of "tofu sticks" soaking on the kitchen counter, I jumped with excitement knowing that we'd soon be treated to one of my favorite meals. Whether they were incorporated into pan-fried vegetables or congee, I always savored their chewy, somewhat meaty texture. (And for a vegetarian, they made an excellent protein-packed meat substitute.) These days I like adding them to noodle salads like goi chay and hiyashi chuka.
Rehydrating dried beancurd sticks is a must; cover them with water and let them sit for at least 8 hours and up to a day. Then drain, cut them into bite-size pieces, and use like you would meat or tofu. The flavor of beancurd sticks is fairly mild, so they take on the flavors that you cook them in. Here are a few good recipes:
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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