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What is Bean Curd?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bean curd is another name for tofu, a product made from soybeans, and sometimes other legumes as well. To make it, a cook curdles soy milk and presses the resulting soybean curds into molds to firm up. The result is a block of white, neutrally flavored material which can be used in a wide assortment of dishes.

There are numerous different styles of this food, as well as an assortment of ways in which it can be used. Bean curd has been made in China for thousands of years, and has spread throughout the world as a reasonably cheap, easy to make source of protein which is also very easy to manipulate in the kitchen.

There are two basic types of bean curd. The first is silken, also called` Japanese style tofu. This type tends to fall apart as it is is worked with, making it a great choice for dishes in which fragments are desired. It is also used in vegan baked goods. Chinese-style tofu is firm, and will hold its shape as it is worked with and cooked. In some places, Chinese style tofu is called bean curd, while Japanese style is called tofu. This can be confusing, but a close inspection of the package can usually sort the issue out.

Once bean curd has been formed, it can be sent out to market as is, or it can undergo further treatment. It may be seasoned and pressed into blocks to form very dense, flavorful tofu. It can also be smoked, frozen, or fermented. Fermented bean curd is often mixed with spices and vegetables and used as a condiment. It can be added to dishes while they are cooking for flavor, or served on the side.

Plain bean curd is available in many markets. It can be fried, steamed, sauteed, baked, or grilled. Vegetarians often use it as a meat substitute, since it is rich in protein. It also absorbs flavor very readily, and is a compliment to many dishes. Make sure to use fresh tofu quickly, as it can go bad.

In Chinese markets, it is possible to find bean curd skin or yuba, a byproduct of the manufacturing process. As the soy milk is fermented, a thin skin forms on top. This skin can be dried in sheets or sticks and used for an assortment of things. Shredded tofu skin is used in many Chinese dishes for texture and flavor. Whole sheets of skin can be used to wrap foods for steaming and frying as well.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon322683 — On Feb 28, 2013

I like shredded bean curd.

By anon321569 — On Feb 23, 2013

With firm and extra firm tofu (Nasoya), not silken varieties, you need to press the water out. Use a press like the EZ Tofu Press and it will come out like at restaurants! Just press, marinate in sauce like BBQ or Hoisin sauce and fry/bake!

By fBoyle — On Feb 20, 2013
@ankara-- It's not that hard. You have to soak soy beans overnight and then boil them and put them through the blender. There are also soy-milk making machines that makes things even easier. And then you put something called nigari in it to coagulate the soy milk into curd.

Finally, you need to pour the curd through a sieve and press down on it to give it shape. Pressing boxes for tofu are sold as well, but I don't have one. I just put my tofu under something heavy to give it shape.

The first time I made bean curd, the results weren't that great, but I got better over time. Making your own bean curd is a great way to save money if you make Asian recipes often.

By bluedolphin — On Feb 19, 2013

Does anyone make their own soy milk and bean curd? Is it very difficult?

By turquoise — On Feb 19, 2013

@anon276630-- I used to dislike bean curd as well, but after I tasted fried tofu I changed my mind. Fried tofu is made from a hard bean curd that's fried in oil. It's absolutely delicious in stir-fries. Kung pao bean curd is another of my favorites.

I think you should give bean curd another try, it's very healthy for you. It's rich in protein.

By anon276630 — On Jun 25, 2012

Can't stand soya or tofu and so bean curd just sounds really horrible to me.

By anon166159 — On Apr 07, 2011

Different kinds of bean curds, especially the soft ones, taste the best. It can soak up the sauce when you use it to cook with meat.

By anon165968 — On Apr 06, 2011

Bean curd with shrimp is delicious! Great with vermicelli or rice paper.

By anon163332 — On Mar 27, 2011

going to try it as mock general tso's chicken! i hope it's good!

By anon71734 — On Mar 19, 2010

i am not a big fan.

By anon54918 — On Dec 03, 2009

I'll never eat hot and sour again.

By anon38868 — On Jul 29, 2009

I love bean curd. My favorite recipe would be chicken with bean curd. extra spicy mmm yummy

By anon38116 — On Jul 23, 2009

I *love* deep fried bean curd and then marinated in soy sauce! Delicious! Great as a "dessert"

By anon37402 — On Jul 19, 2009

I disagree, bean curd is delicious, especially in black bean sauce!!! Mmmmmmmmm!!

By anon27060 — On Feb 23, 2009

bean curd is nasssssty!!!!!!!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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