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Tofu is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable food-substances known to man. Not only is it utterly odorless and flavourless, in its simplest form it is textureless as well!

Although tofu's purpose in the minds of many vegetarians is to be a replacement for meat, it is instead used in many recipes as a sort of culinary parasite; a general-purpose filler that leeches the color and flavour of whatever ingredients are combined with it.

To be fair, tofu is used by many chefs and cooks partly because of its lack of flavour. Many believe this allows other ingredients in a recipe to better tantalize your palette. Tofu's critics prefer to think of tofu as a gourmet black hole from which no flavour can escape.

The Origins of Tofu

The exact origins of tofu remain shrouded in mystery. Tofu has been around in one form or another for centuries. It is a greatly enjoyed delicacy of the Far East, and only began to permeate western shores within the past few decades as a fashionable alternative to enjoying food.

Some sources indicate that somehow, thousands of years ago, mystical seers of the Far East discovered how to 'milk' soy beans.

The Composition of Tofu

'Yes yes, that's all very interesting,' you might say, But what is it really? Actually, it's a form of cheese. The 'curd' comes from soybeans that have been 'milked' so to speak. This curd is then shaped into cakes or blocks and shipped out to anyone who cares to eat it. Sounds tasty doesn't it?

Like conventional cheese made by dairy products, when tofu goes bad it can have a foul smell, but at least then it has taste; a sharp sour taste that has been known to make laboratory rats gag. Some diehard fans of tofu believe it is still edible and useful in many dishes even after it turns mouldy and appears to be acquiring a film or skin.

The Uses of Tofu

Tofu is generally considered by many vegetarians to be the all-purpose replacement for meat, chicken, fish and any and all dairy products. Sometimes they have to be overtly creative and resourceful in order to accomplish this, but in this capacity, tofu may be found in an infinite variety of dishes, from stir-fry to smoothie.

Chefs have found that it can be made in numerous textures - from a light and almost creamy form to a form solid enough to pick up with a fork. Tofu can also be pressed and baked until it becomes chewy. If the tofu is marinated as well, it can become quite a tasty dish all by itself. Apparently.

The Benefits of Tofu

Ironically, despite everyone going on and on about how good tofu is for everyone to eat, tofu is actually very high in fat. However, the fat in it is unsaturated and also free of cholesterol, which according to American exercise Guru Richard Simmons, that means it's easier for the human body to digest than more complex saturated fat molecules, and therefore is better for you. Tofu also has 25% fewer calories than the average hamburger, and more calcium.

Pound for pound and calorie for calorie, red meat and tofu are about equal when it comes to protein. And, at least last we checked, protein is still good for you.

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