Chinois’ make good tofu

Purchase decisions work in mysterious ways.

A few weeks back, the weather started to cool (ever so mildly, this being LA), which gave Bonnie Lee an urge to make steamed bread (she being from MA). Of course, steamed bread doesn’t feel quite right without baked beans, and in order to make baked beans, you need a little ketchup. 

So Bonnie Lee made ketchup. Then beans. Then steamed bread.

They all rocked. That being said, the ketchup was a bit of a pain to make, because our strainer was not well suited to the task.

About a week later, we stumbled across a chinois (a cone-shaped sieve with a closely woven mesh) at Sur la Table — something which would have been ideal, we figured, for the ketchup making. It was heavy and sturdy, and its mesh was finer than your average strainer, but coarser than cheesecloth. It seemed like just the thing for making soy milk, which can be a bit slow and messy using muslin. There was no price on it, but it was the last one, so we tossed in in our basket, figuring it wouldn’t cost that much. 

When we went to the cash, we learned that this little puppy would set us back $140. We had second thoughts, but figured it would be worth it if it sped up the soy milk & tofu-making process — and any lingering buyer’s regret went straight out the window when we made our first batch of soy milk the next day. Instead of coaxing and squeezing the milk through through the muslin, we just poured our soy slurry into the chinois and the milk came out the other side just as fast, leaving behind a nice, dry little cone of okara. We popped that into a container, and had a clean, rinsed chinois seconds later.

Since that first batch, we’ve also used the chinois to strain a batch of ginger beer, with similarly happy results. How I lived without a chinois for all these years, I will never know.

Identity crisis

Future ketchup?

Bonnie Lee’s ketchup (about ½ cup — suggest you at least double this)


  • 3 tomatoes chopped
  • ¼ onion chopped
  • 50 ml brown sugar
  • one cinnamon stick
  • five cloves
  • ¾ inch ginger, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • one crushed bay leaf
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • salt, to taste


  • Put the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and bay leaf in a cheesecloth sachet.
  • Put the sachet and the rest of the ingredients in pot, and simmer for 40 minutes
  • Purée the mixture, strain it (using a chinois, if you have one), and simmer strained liquid for 30 minutes
  • Let cool.

Better than Heinz, and a nice way to opt out of the waste stream associated with ketchup and ketchup bottle manufacture.



9 thoughts on “Chinois’ make good tofu

  1. Holy Cow! $140! Now I understand you are in LA and I am in Houston (not nearly the price mark up), but I got to tell you – I picked one up for about $15 at my local grocery chain. You can get them at BedBath and Beyond for a much more reasonable price as well as at other non-specialty stores (think Target).

  2. Okay…wow! I just bought my mom a food mill ($30, for jellies) figuring I could borrow it to make tomato purée for other things, but I must say the cone-shaped thingie has my interest piqued for making tofu. $140 is a bit much — I think I’ll shop around. We’re using the strainer and cloth that came with the machine, not the most efficient. Thanks for another thoughtful post, Jean-François.

    • I’m sure you can do better with a bit of looking (just make sure you get the finest mesh you can). Definitely well worth getting, though … it’s cut the time and the mess when making soy milk considerably, and we end up making it more often.

  3. Lovely aromatic ketchup and quite and eye-watering chinois! I’ll stick with my jellybag hanging contraption thingy from Lakeland (UK kitchen stuff, par excellence). Slow but if you resist the temptation to squeeze the bag to speed things up you have dry matter in the bag and unsullied liquid below. But you will use your fancy set-up so much that it will pay for itself soon ;D

  4. OK I’m new to all these nifty food-making gadgets, but I am motivated to make that ketchup (or is it catsup?) it looks very satisfying indeed! One question…how long does this stay good in the fridge?

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