Easy, tasty, and a crowd pleaser, Taiwanese Tofu Lettuce Wraps will be a hit with your family!
As part of my consulting work, I recently traveled to Walnut Creek, California, to serve these delicious Taiwanese Tofu Lettuce Wraps to a corporate wellness focus group. I started with a cooking demo and then we ate up! The whole group, even those who had never tried tofu, loved this recipe.
A few pics from my trip!
In this post we'll talk a little about tofu and then I'll share some tips for making this recipe!
Let's Talk Tofu
Tofu is a popular food made from soybeans that was invented in China. It's also known as bean curd and is made by thickening soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft or firm blocks.
Tofu is rich in protein, low in fat, and is a good source of iron, calcium, and other nutrients. In fact, it's a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids!
It has a mild flavor and a versatile texture, making it a popular ingredient in vegetarian and vegan recipes. Tofu comes in different textures, from soft to firm, and each texture is suitable for different dishes. Soft tofu is great for soups and desserts, while firm tofu is ideal for stir-fries and grilling.
Tofu is a healthy choice and is better for the planet!
Tofu is a low-fat food that contains no cholesterol, making it a heart-healthy food choice. It's been the subject of LOTS of scientific research, and some studies suggest that it may have health benefits such as reducing the risk of certain diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Tofu is a sustainable food choice that requires less water, land, and resources to produce than animal-based proteins like meat and dairy.
How is making tofu different from making cheese?
The process of making tofu is somewhat similar to the process of making cheese, but there are some key differences. Both tofu and cheese are made by thickening proteins to form a solid curd, but the coagulating agents used and the methods of processing are different.
To make tofu, soybeans are soaked in water, ground into a fine paste, and then boiled to make soy milk. A natural coagulating agent, such as calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride, is added to the soy milk to curdle it. The curds are then pressed into blocks to remove excess liquid and form the final tofu product.
In contrast, cheese is typically made by curdling milk by rennet, or various plant, fungus or microbial sources. Rennet is dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves which is then sliced into small pieces, added to salt water or whey, then mixed together with some vinegar or wine to lower the pH of the solution. Rennet contains enzymes that coagulate milk proteins. The curd is then cut, heated, and pressed to remove the whey and form the cheese.
So, while the basic process of coagulating proteins to form a solid curd is similar, the coagulating agents and methods of processing are different for tofu and cheese.
You can make tofu at home!
Tofu can be made at home using just a few simple ingredients, including soybeans, water, and a coagulant like vinegar or lemon juice.
Here are the general steps to make tofu:
Soak the soybeans: Begin by soaking dried soybeans in water overnight or for at least 8 hours until they are soft and plump.
Grind the soybeans: Drain the soaked soybeans and grind them in a blender or food processor until they become a fine paste. You may need to add a little water to help the beans blend smoothly.
Cook the soy milk: Transfer the soybean paste to a pot and add water in a 1:4 ratio (1 cup of soybean paste to 4 cups of water). Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil.
Add a coagulant: Once the soy milk is boiling, add a coagulating agent such as gypsum powder, nigari, or lemon juice, stirring gently until the milk begins to curdle.
Strain the curds: Line a tofu press or a colander with cheesecloth and carefully pour the curdled soy milk into it. Let the liquid drain away, then press the curds gently to remove excess liquid.
Shape the tofu: Transfer the pressed curds to a mold and press them again to form the shape of your choice. You can use a tofu press, a weighted plate, or any other object that will apply pressure to the curds.
Chill and store: Chill the tofu in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using. Store the tofu in an airtight container with water in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.
While there are a few steps involved, making tofu at home is relatively easy and can be a fun and rewarding experience. With practice, you can experiment with different coagulants, textures, and flavors to create your own unique tofu creations.
Tips and info on Taiwanese Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Jasmine rice and a suggested substitution
Jasmine rice was used in this recipe for this purpose because I needed to cook for a large group in a short amount of time, and for culinary purposes. 1/4 cup of dried jasmine rice has 150 calories, 3 grams of protein and 4% of your daily potassium.
A great substitution I suggest for this recipe it to use quinoa. It cooks up quickly and has 160 calories in 1/4 cup dry, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 10% daily iron and 6% daily potassium.
I used Medjool dates in this recipe because I love their soft texture and sweet flavor, but you can easily sub deglet dates, raisins or your favorite dried fruit.
I used romaine lettuce but you can use butter lettuce or even sub whole wheat tortillas for an even more filling lunch or dinner!
I used super firm tofu in this recipe. I don't suggest subbing this. Super firm contains more protein and doesn't need to be pressed. It's super easy to work with!
Video on how to make Taiwanese Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Taiwanese Tofu Lettuce Wraps
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed well (or sub quinoa for even more fiber and protein!)
Kosher salt & pepper
1 oz fresh ginger, peeled, and minced (should be about 1 Tbsp)
16 oz super firm tofu, patted dry and crumbled
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 green onions, sliced thinly
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds (or your favorite nut or seed)
2 oz pitted Medjool dates (about 3 dates)
3 Tbsp mirin, Japanese Rice Wine
1 ½ Tbsp wheat free tamari or 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 head romaine lettuce
½ oz fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped (optional)
Avocado oil cooking spray
1. Cook jasmine rice (or quinoa) to package directions. Season with salt, to taste.
2. Spray a skillet with avocado cooking spray, heat over medium-high heat; once hot, add the tofu, spray the top of the tofu with avocado oil spray and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tofu is browned and crispy on one side (check one piece before flipping); flip and cook until the next side is brown; about 5 minutes. Continue to cook and flip until tofu is evenly browned and crispy to your liking. Spoon tofu onto a plate to set aside. (For more tofu, work in batches, don’t crowd the pan.)
3. Place the skillet back on the stove over medium-high heat; spray with more avocado oil spray. Add garlic, minced ginger, green onion and sunflower seeds to the skillet. Stir frequently until just beginning to brown. Add the dates, mirin, tamari and ¼ cup water and cook until thickened. Add the tofu back to the skillet and toss to coat.
4. Fill the romaine leaves with some jasmine rice and some of the tofu mixture. Top with some fresh cilantro.
*Altered from Purple Carrot meal kit recipe: https://www.purplecarrot.com/recipe/taiwanese-tofu-lettuce-cups-with-dates-gingered-jasmine-rice