Thai pickled cherry tofu anyone?

When I got back from my last trip, one of the first things I did was try some of the Thai pickled cherries we made in July, and I wasn’t disappointed. The flavours are complex and interesting, and blend perfectly. The first thing that hits the tongue when you have one is the lemon grass, but that’s quickly followed by a strong cherry taste with a hint of hot spice, and the finish is pure lime. There’s something strangely satisfying about them, and they add an interesting accent to plate of (strong) cheese & crudités.

We’ve been making our tofu with nigari, the traditional Japanese coagulant, but wanted to try something a bit different, so decided to make a batch of firm tofu using the brine from the pickled cherries – just to see what would happen.

For the uninitiated, making firm tofu is straightforward; all you have to do is:

  • Slowly add your coagulant to hot soy milk until curds begin to form. If you made the soy milk yourself, remember to strain it through a cheesecloth first in order to remove the pulp, otherwise you will make very gritty tofu.
  • Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
  • Scoop the curds into a tofu mold lined with cheesecloth (or just pour everything in there). Tofu molds have holes that allow any liquid to run out, so you’ll want to put the mold in the sink first.
  • Once most of the liquid has drained out of the curds, fold the cheesecloth over so that the tofu is completely wrapped.
  • Put the lid on the mold and give the tofu a good squeeze over the sink.
  • Put the tofu mold in a dish (to catch any water that comes out as you press the tofu).
  • Put a weight on the lid, and let it sit for two hours.
  • If you’re not going to use the tofu right away, submerge it in water and put it in the fridge.
Fresh tofu

Fresh off the presses

We used about a quart of soy milk fresh from the soy milk maker, and it took 5 tablespoons of brine to make it coagulate. That made about 8 oz of firm tofu.

Using vinegar resulted in a somewhat less creamy texture than nigari does, and there was only the slightest a hint of all those great Thai cherry pickle flavours from the brine. Conclusion: there doesn’t seem to be much point in using a complex vinegar, but vinegar does give a good result. Even if you can’t find nigari, you can still make better-than-supermarket tofu at home using vinegar. The planet will benefit from your efforts by having a little less plastic in its landfills, and a little less CO2 in its air – and one thing’s for certain: if you take the time to make your tofu from scratch, you won’t be throwing it away.

Tofu frying

Tofu in wok

We used this particular batch of tofu to make Pad Thai, which we served with a few pickled cherries on the side. We used seitan instead of shrimp, though the meal wasn’t 100% vegetarian thanks to a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce.

Pad Thai with pickled cherries

Pad Thai with spicy pickled cherries

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16 thoughts on “Thai pickled cherry tofu anyone?

    • Thai food is up there with the world’s great cuisines – and Pad Thai is such a simple but great dish. It’s well worth finding tamarind paste to get the right flavor – and, if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, fish sauce.

      • I’ve made a batch of soy milk with the SoyaJoy (and the resulting okara) and a batch of almond/oat milk. Both turned out delicious! I spiked them with a bit of vanilla cane-sugar sweetener, and the kids devoured.

        I have an okara cheesecake in the oven. If it tastes at all like it smells, it’s going to be delicious. Crossing my fingers for success…will make for a great DirtNKids post. Cheers!

      • Glad to hear the soy/nut milk was a hit – and really looking forward to hearing how that okara cheesecake turned out. Hope you’ll be sharing the recipe.

  1. You have made me SO hungry. Naughty man! Really, using homemade tofu in a delicious pad Thai sounds heavenly. Do you think I could get away with making my own tofu just using the cheesecloth, without a specific mold, or even using one of the holey trays that you get with pre-packed tomatoes ( I know, I know. I’ll slap myself now)? I must try making my own and seeing how it compares with the locally made stuff I buy (at a hefty price) but I’d like to not buy one other gadget if I can help it.

    • I sincerely apologize – though at the same time definitely encourage you to give it a try (it really worked out well). I don’t think you need anything you don’t have to make either soy milk or tofu (and you can make tofu from commercial soy milk – though look for one that’s not sweetened or flavored). The mold is just a box with holes in it, so you can improvise there. Key is just to have it in something with rigid sides and holes, and to be able to apply pressure evenly across the tofu. For example, you could use cheesecloth, a colander, a plate and a rock and set up something in your sink that would do the trick (the tofu wouldn’t be square, but you can work around that). As for the coagulant, either vinegar or lemon will do the trick. Good luck. :)

      • I just wanted to follow up. In my research on tofu making, drainage and pressure were the two elements people looked for in a tofu press. There were some good suggestions for alternative tofu molds, and the most common was to use a the bottom half of a half-gallon milk carton (the wax paper kind) with some holes poked into it on all sides. It seems like a smart way to get shape and drainage while repurposing a carton.

  2. You made a very good point in addition to make an interesting dish. You said, ” if you take the time to make your tofu from scratch, you won’t be throwing it away.” Insert anything you make in place of tofu and the world be a much better place. The time it takes to make something invests a few things very important to most people, time and effort.

    • Thanks, Donna. I’m just planning a talk on food waste, and that’s one of the key points I want to make. Once you’ve invested something of yourself in food (whether by growing, picking or preparing it), you value it differently.

    • Thai food just generally rocks in my book – all the more impressive given that its ubiquitous fish sauce “tastes like death” (a very accurate recent description by Monti on MasterChef).

  3. Pingback: Spicy Tasty Jamaican Jerk Tofu | GreenTrails&TeapotTales

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