Each week, the Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.
Test Drive Subject: Asian Tofu by Andrea Nguyen
What It Is: The latest cookbook by Andrea Nguyen is a collection of 85 recipes featuring, yes, you guessed it, tofu. But make no mistake; this book isn't strictly for the hardcore vegan or even a vegetarian audience. Rather, it's an informative read on everything you want to know about tofu, from its history, to the varieties out on the market, to how to make your own tofu at home.
Putting It To Use: Tofu may be soft and fragile, but the hard-cover edition of this book is anything but. Part of that may have something to do with its size and heft; flip open to a recipe and the book eats up more space than your conventional toaster oven.
But that size isn't always a bad thing, especially since you'll probably never lose track of where you are in the recipe when cooking. It's a small detail but worth noting because a) it makes referencing recipes a breeze and b) nobody likes mucking up a brand new cookbook with grimy hands. And if you're working with tofu, chances are your hands will get a little wet at the very least.
SEE: A step-by-step photo gallery of how to prepare Hakka-style stuffed tofu. Story continues below:
Most of the recipes are broken up into four or five steps -- with more complicated dishes going up to eight steps, like the Hakka-style stuffed tofu. Next to making your own tofu, this dish was probably one of the tougher ones, since it required stuffing, frying and braising. From start to finish, the entire dish took about an hour to make, but to this book's credit, the recipe was easy to follow and the results were delicious.
Our Thoughts: When one of my colleagues came across this book in the office, she jokingly asked, "Asian tofu? Is there any other?" And according to this book's introduction, the answer is no. The book succeeds, however, in showing how tofu can become a staple in any kitchen and part of that has to do with the diversity of the recipes. From soups, salads, to mock meats and mains to even sweets and dessert (like this recipe for tofu pudding), I found Asian Tofu showed off the ingredient's strong suits -- versatility and adaptable flavour.
Anyone hoping to convert friends or family to a tofu-based diet may, however, be disappointed. Despite the number of different recipes, I'd be hard-pressed seeing this book convincing anyone to hop on the tofu bandwagon -- though I give points for including recipes that use meat and seafood to show tofu dishes aren't only for environmentally friendly hippies.
The Warning: This book does require a a trip or two to an Asian supermarket, or at the very least, a well-equipped supermarket to pick up items like mirin, fermented black beans or Sichuan peppercorns. The back end of the book does offer substitutes for some ingredients but not all.
Tips: Do invest in a cookbook stand or make sure you've cleared off plenty of counter space. Also, it's not a bad idea to plan ahead and find recipes that use similar ingredients if you're not the type to try Shaoxing cooking wine, or dried shrimp or oyster sauce on a regular basis.
Have a suggestion for a Test Drive? Tried something you loved or hated? Let us know on Twitter at @HuffPostCaLiv, or in the comments below.
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