Today we focus our attention on one of the best protein sources you can find on many food trucks or carts around the country, including those whose menus are primarily meat based. This mysterious ingredient is one that can be found in almost every vegetarian or vegan refrigerator. It is a simple substitute for those following the Meatless Monday program. Tofu (also called bean curd or soybean curd) is made from soybeans, water and a coagulant, or curdling agent.
Incorporating Tofu Into Your Food Truck Menu
Tofu is high in protein and calcium and well known for its ability to absorb new flavors through spices and marinades. There are two main versions: silken or soft and firm. Due to its chameleon-like qualities and nutritional value, it has recently become popular in Western vegetarian cooking. So popular, in fact, that it has almost become synonymous with vegetarianism itself.
Tofu is rich in high-quality protein. It is also a good source of B-vitamins and iron. If the curdling agent used to make it is calcium salt, the it becomes an excellent source of calcium. While 50 percent of its calories come from fat, a 4-ounce serving contains just 6 grams of fat. It is low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. Generally, the softer it is, the lower the fat content. It is also very low in sodium, making it a perfect food for people on sodium-restricted diets.
4 ounces of:
|Firm, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride (nigari)||Soft, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride (nigari)|
|Saturated Fat (gm)||.975||.602|
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 200 4. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp, and from product analysis.
Buying & Storing
It most commonly is sold in water-filled tubs, vacuum packs, or in brick packages. It is usually found in the produce section of the grocery store, although some stores sell tofu in the dairy or deli sections. Tofu is sometimes sold in bulk in food cooperatives or Asian markets. Unless it is aseptically packaged, it should be kept cold. As with any perishable food, check the expiration date on the package.
- Once the package is open, it should be rinsed and covered with fresh water for storage. Change the water daily to keep it fresh, and use within a week.
- It can be frozen up to 5 months. Defrosted tofu has a caramel color and a chewy, spongy texture that soaks up marinade sauces and is great for the grill.
Tips For Use
- Add chunks of firm version to soups and stews.
- Mix crumbles into a meatloaf.
- Mash it with cottage cheese and seasoning to make a sandwich spread.
- Create your own tofu burgers with mashed tofu, bread crumbs, chopped onion and your favorite seasonings.
- Marinate in barbecue sauce, char it on the grill and serve on crusty Italian bread.
- Add a package of taco seasoning to pan-fried, crumbled tofu, or a mixture of tofu and ground beef to tofu tacos.
- Blend dried onion soup mix into soft or silken tofu for a cholesterol-free onion dip.
- Stir the silken version into sour cream for a reduced-fat baked potato topper.
- Blend with melted chocolate chips and a little sweetener to make a chocolate cream pie.
- Replace all or part of the cream in creamed soups with the silken version.
- Make missing egg salad with tofu chunks, diced celery, mayonnaise and a dab of prepared mustard.
- Substitute pureed silken for part of the mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese or ricotta cheese in a recipe. Use it in dips and creamy salad dressings.
The Bottom Line
As you can see from this information, tofu is an easy way to find a substitute for meat on your food truck menu for Meatless Mondays. It has become so popular that notable meat based food trucks such as Kogi BBQ Truck as well as any vegetarian or vegan food truck will have tofu as a meat substitute on their menus.