What do you think of if I told you that the following is a description of a type of food?
- High in protein
- High in fat
- Pasty white or creamy yellow
- Beloved by vegetarians
- Comes in a wobbly rectangular block or firm, square slices
- Sometimes it smells weird
Many bizarre foods could fit this description. But the two commonplace choices that sprung to my mind are cheese and tofu.
How did I come to compare cheese and tofu?
A few weeks ago, I discovered that a lot of people ask the question “does tofu melt?” on Google search. Google directs some of these people to Garlic Delight.
(Hello, if you’re one of those people who asked Google this question!)
Maybe Google thinks I’m knowledgeable about tofu. Maybe it’s because of my article on the 9 Types of Tofu You’ve Never Heard Of. Or maybe it was my answer to the question “What’s the difference between silken and soft tofu?”.
As someone who grew up eating tofu for as long as I can remember, how tofu tastes and behaves feels as familiar to me as table salt. You can imagine my initial reaction to the question “does tofu melt?” , right?
Isn’t it pretty obvious?
But is it?
Does the answer seem obvious to you?
We all live in our silos today with our faces pressed against our screens. We don’t run into people who are very different from us because we’re trapped in our little bubble.
Despite the promise of digital communication allowing us to extend our conversations across the world, I barely extend my ears and eyes beyond my tiny geographic region. I hang out and talk to people just like me. People who have eaten tofu a lot.
It’s no wonder that it would never occur to me to ask whether tofu melts.
And yet, it’s a joy to look through a beginner’s eyes at a new exotic ingredient.
Like when I first discovered vanilla beans and speculoos. I, too, remember asking questions like “are the seeds edible in the vanilla pods?” This question never springs to mind after handling vanilla for more than a decade (until 3 years ago when I found out that vanilla is an orchid).
But remember back to the joy you experienced the first time you picked up a vanilla pod and inhaled its intoxicating fragrance. Or cut into its plump belly to discover a million tiny dots that add character to your simmering custard.
Enough stalling: Does tofu melt?
For those who discovered this article because you have a burning question to know whether tofu melts, let’s answer it.
What does it mean to melt?
In the context of chemistry, it means a substance goes from one state to another.
For example, when ice cubes in a glass
So does tofu melt in the chemistry meaning of “melt”? No, tofu doesn’t melt.
As a little experiment, let’s see what happens when we heat up a block of tofu cut into cubes in the microwave for 3 minutes.
We discover that it sheds a lot of water. It sweats and drips so much that you’d think we wrapped the tofu in a down vest and left it sitting in front of a campfire on a hot summer’s day.
But the cubes are still standing strong. By comparison, a cubes of cheese would have merged into a puddle of gooey cheese.
How to use tofu to add creaminess even if it doesn’t melt
Just because tofu doesn’t melt the way cheese, butter,
Let’s look at how you could use tofu to add extra fat, protein, and richness to a recipe that you might normally use cream or ice cream for.
Yes, soft tofu can be blended in a smoothie to give your fruity drink more body and sustain you for longer.
To be sure, there are countless varieties of tofu, and I continue to discover novel varieties I’ve never tasted before.
Maybe one day, thanks to food biotech wizardry, I will get to experience melting tofu.
Until that day, you too can look at commonplace ingredients in your fridge with fresh eyes by asking yourself “does this <fill in the blank ingredient> melt?”
And as a result, what does that inspire you to make?