Learn what tofu sponge is and why you’ll love it. You’ll learn how to recognize it at the grocery store and what kinds of dishes are best suited for tofu sponge. You will learn how egg tofu differs from denser fried tofu and whether it is vegan.
What Is Tofu Sponge?
I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t know if this type of tofu is called tofu sponge. Maybe I made up that name. Growing up with my Malaysian nanny’s family, they called it “tofu pocks.” I like to think of the name “tofu pock” as a shortening of “tofu pocket” because that’s exactly what these tofu cubes do.
They are sponges that soak up whatever liquid they are placed in. Or in the case of tofu pockets, they soak up curry and soup and deliver them straight to your mouth. The tofu sponge packaging calls it “deep fried soy bean cake” (what an ugly name). Let’s call it “tofu sponge” because it’s an apt description for the appearance and it’s function (more on that later).
In this article, we’re featuring the tofu sponge. It is a deep-fried cube-shaped tofu that has a fried exterior and a sponge-like soft texture inside.
Tofu sponge typically comes in a plastic bag filled with small cubes of fried tofu. The bright yellow exterior reminds me that tofu is not always a health food. I love cooking with tofu sponge because there’s no pressing required, it is sturdier than regular tofu, and it’s mostly air inside waiting to absorb your flavors.
RELATED: Learn more about different types of tofu you’ve never heard of.
How to Prep Tofu Sponge
There’s no special preparation for the tofu sponge. You can add it directly into your soup pot or saucepan as you’re cooking. I notice most restaurants serve tofu sponge cut in half. I have a hypothesis about why they cut the tofu sponge in half.
- It helps absorb more liquid.
- It stretches the tofu to make it look like you have more tofu into your dish.
If I feel I have plenty of time, I sometimes cut the tofu sponge in half so it can absorb more liquid. However, more likely than not, I do nothing special to the tofu sponge. Just chuck it into my curry without cutting it.
NOTE: Tofu sponge is already cooked since it’s deep fried. So while you can’t eat it raw, I recommend checking out tips on how to cook it in your dishes because that’s where tofu sponge shines.
How to Cook Tofu Sponge
You can put whole or halved cubes of tofu sponge into your vegetable or noodle soups. Add it into your hot pot broths and boil for 2 minutes before serving. You can add it to curries, stews, and even chili as long as there’s extra liquid for the tofu sponge to absorb.
You can braise tofu sponge along with vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and broccoli in vegetable broth. Or add tofu sponge to meat braises like braised chicken legs for a hearty winter meal where the tofu sponge will soak up the braised liquids.
Egg Tofu Works Well With…
- Curries (Thai Green Curry with Chicken, Malaysian Chicken curry)
- Eggplant (braised)
- Cabbage (braised)
- Carrots (braised)
- Broccoli (braised)
- Noodle soup (laksa, chicken noodle soup)
- Hot pot
- Stews (ratatouille)
How to Substitute Tofu Sponge
Most recipes don’t call specifically for tofu sponge because it’s a rare type of tofu. However, if you run into a recipe with tofu sponge, you can use cubed brick tofu, deep-fried tofu cakes, or even fish balls and fish cakes instead.
Tofu Sponge vs. Deep-Fried Firm Tofu Cakes
If you find the tofu sponge in the grocery store, it might be sitting next to deep-fried firm tofu cakes. They look similar to the untrained eye. They are both deep-fried and golden outside with a soft and off-white inside.
However, their interior textures differ and that makes a big difference. Tofu sponge is mostly air inside with a sponge-like texture that absorbs liquid easily. Deep-fried firm tofu cakes are firm inside like firm brick tofu with a compact texture that doesn’t absorb liquid. Deep-fried firm tofu is fantastic for stir frying because its sturdy texture allows it to stay intact. But it won’t absorb the liquid from your curry or soup the way that tofu sponge is designed to.
Where to Buy Tofu Sponge
You should be able to find tofu sponge in most Asian grocery stores year-round in the refrigerated tofu section that is typically next to the fresh produce. Look for tofu sponge in a plastic bag next to the other special varieties of tofu.
WARNING: Unfortunately, these special types of tofu may experience less turnover than we would like. So double-check the expiration date before you buy a bag. I purchased moldy tofu the last time I visited the Asian grocery store, and the disappointment was crushing. Save yourself the heartbreak by checking the expiration date on every bag or container of tofu before you purchase it.
How to Store Tofu Sponge
Store tofu sponge in its original plastic bag it is sold in. Use it before the expiration date. If you open the bag of tofu, try to consume it within 2 days.
Cooked tofu sponge can last up to 3 days if refrigerated. Try to eat it as soon as possible.
Is Tofu Sponge Vegan?
Yes, tofu sponge should be vegan because it is made without animal products. As always, check the ingredients list before purchasing to double-check it is vegan.