February 27, 2013

Shan tofu/chickpea tofu/Burmese tofu


My son and his girlfriend made a large batch of Shan tofu and shared half of it with me. Shan tofu is also known as Burmese tofu, and is made primarily from chickpea flour. That may sound unappealing to you but it tastes great and is very versatile, not to mention easy to make, though it does require some waiting. The tofu they gave me had been made into shan tofu salad with the addition of kaffir lime leaves, toasted sesame seeds, garlic and a few other ingredients. The texture is different, of course from soy-based tofu; I've seen it described as being similar to refrigerated polenta, but that's not quite right. It's firmer than polenta and just ... different. Maybe you just have to try it to know what it's like.

For breakfast over polenta, with olives, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts.

The recipes used for the tofu and marinade came from Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid. I searched the Internet hoping to find the exact recipes to share with you, but came away empty-handed, and I can't share copyrighted material. On Amazon, you can "look inside the book" to get a taste for the wonderful recipes and photos, and see the recipe for Shan tofu salad, but not for the tofu itself. The book is not vegetarian or vegan, but substitutes for things like fish sauce and shrimp paste are suggested, and there are so many interesting recipes I think I'd love to have the book in my collection.

With broccoli, tomato and umeboshi-tahini sauce over mung thread noodles.

There seem to be two basic ways to make Shan tofu — the traditional way and the modern way. The traditional way involves soaking chickpea flour for a number of hours in a large quantity of water, removing some of the water, cooking the mixture, then letting it firm up in the refrigerator. The modern method eliminates the soaking period and cooks the flour with a lot less water before the firming-up stage.

Shan tofu added to a mixed-greens, tomato and sunflower seed salad.

I was able to find many links to recipes for the traditional method, and am sharing my favorite — a very clear youtube video. I also found a link to a recipe very similar to the modern one in my son's cookbook, though the cookbook version uses only chickpea flour, water and salt in somewhat smaller quantities than the linked recipe. (It's possible that the oil in the linked recipe is added to help keep the mixture from foaming up when it's cooked.) I think I'd make half a recipe, because even the smaller quantity from the cookbook made a LOT. I haven't tried making this myself yet because I had such a huge amount to use up, but I intend to try it soon, and if I run into any issues I'll update the post. I also haven't tried Shan tofu in its natural state — only marinated in the salad dressing, which I think was a great way to flavor it. It can also be added to a soup or stir-fry, or deep fried into a snack. Here's another recipe that's very simple. Have you tried Shan tofu? 





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Bonzai Aphrodite
If you've never read this post, you should. It's about facing a health crisis as a vegan. We've all read about ex-vegans who have stopped being vegan because of a health issue. This is a story of pursuing medical help with failing health with determination and courage, while remaining vegan.

34 comments:

  1. I haven't heard of shan tofu before, it looks interesting. It doesn't have soy in it but it's called tofu. Is that because it looks like tofu?

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    1. Good question. I wonder if it's a Burmese or Western thing to call it tofu. It's used like tofu, so maybe that's why. I need to learn more about it.

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  2. I know you're a Philly gal. Have you been to Rangoon, the Burmese resto in Chinatown? They serve this. The texture was odd to me, almost cheese-like, but I liked it.

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    1. I left Philly when I was 22, and our visits back now tend to be short and family intensive. When we go out to eat it's usually with a crowd of relatives who probably don't want to trek to Chinatown. I used to have an aunt who lived in town and we always went out to dinner at least once with her — I'm sure she would have been game for Rangoon. On our last visit we managed to visit Vedge, which was a treat!

      Burmese food uses a lot of fish sauce and shrimp paste — is it hard to get vegan dishes at Rangoon? It's on my list for our next visit.

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  3. Wow, what a great post. This took a lot of time to go through everything! The post itself, the video the other post you linked to...whew! But, it was worth it. I love the dishes you chose to use the tofu in. The video was very informative, and I think I will actually give this recipe a go. It does remind me of polenta in appearance and how it's cooked. However, the cook gave me the willies in how he kept grabbing all the ingredients with his bare hands. Remind me not to eat in his kitchen. The other post was amazing. I was drawn in and wondered how this would be resolved. I might look into a naturopath for something that I'm going through, not blood related, but bone related. Thanks for all the good stuff today!

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    1. Thanks! I should have warned you about the hands — the video was so helpful, though, that I decided to post it in spite of the cook's personal cooking style. :) I'm sure he washed his hands first, don't you think? The other recipe link was for the modern method, which is what I'm going to try.

      The health post was mesmerizing to me. Although it was long, I couldn't stop reading. I'm glad you found it helpful. Mostly we read about long-term vegans choosing to stop being vegan when they encounter health issues. Lots of omnivores encounter health issues, too, but they don't usually decide that eating animals is the problem.

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  4. Yes of course I've had Shan tofu. It's very big here in northern Wyoming. "Gimme a Shan tofu salad and a sasparilly, and make it snappy!" is often overheard in our local dining establishments. ;-)

    Just when I think I've at least heard of most of the plant foods out there, here comes another of which I'm completely ignorant. After reading a few months ago what a superlative egg replacer chickpea flour makes, and now this, my respect for the chickpea grows ever deeper. Not sure I'll ever make this, but I'd sure love to try it!

    My only experience with Burmese food is second-hand hearsay from years ago. My friend Patty's mother was from Korea, and a friend of her family, a Burmese man named Mr. Min (or something similar), came to stay with them for a week or so when Patty and I were in junior high. Patty was quite beside herself (and couldn't wait to tell me about it) when her mom served corn on the cob with dinner, and Mr. Min saved his ear of corn for dessert. When questioned, he told them that corn on the cob was eaten as a dessert in Burma. I have no idea if that's true (I frankly didn't even picture corn on the cob in Burma), but it clearly made an impression on me since I still remember it! So thanks to this post, my knowledge of Burmese cuisine has now doubled. :-)

    By the way, those sound like gentle livelihoods, don't they? Wet-rice cultivators, shopkeepers and artisans. "Right livelihoods," as Buddha would say.

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    1. Hahahaha. You had me laughing my socks off with that first paragraph! If it makes you feel any better, this was my first time trying Shan tofu, too, though I've known about it for some time. Now that I've tasted it, I'm all for making some so I can eat it again. It's unusual but I loved it.

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  5. oooh this sounds interesting, i'd love to try it!

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    1. Yes, I agree, you should try it! It's weird but good.

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  6. Thank you for this, Andrea! I have been meaning to make Burmese tofu for a few years now (crazy, I know...I don't know why I haven't gotten around to it) but I think you have finally inspired me to actually do it! I guess part of the reason I haven't done it yet is because it seems so time consuming, but it is reassuring to know that it is worth the effort. While I like tofu and don't avoid it for any reason, I think that this is so interesting that I can't resist trying it :-)

    Courtney

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    1. You're welcome. I've been meaning to do it for a long time, too, and just like you I thought it was too time consuming. Now that I've actually tasted it, and thought about it some more, it doesn't seem so intimidating. I'm going to make half a recipe, though, because the quantity is a little intimidating.

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  7. Thanks for sharing news (to me) of this wonderful dish! I loved Burmese food while growing up in the SF Bay Area but never thought to make it myself. I'd like to get Duguid's book, but want to make sure there are viable subs for the fish sauce and shrimp powder as I don't see these in the book preview. Thanks again!

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    1. As I mentioned, the book is not vegetarian, though some of the dishes are vegetable-based, and in others you can sub tofu, seitan, soy curls, etc. for the meat or fish. There's a small paragraph on page 349 (look-inside on Amazon) that lists vegetarian options for fish sauce and shrimp paste such as salt, soy sauce, toasted chickpea flour, dried mushroom powder. I haven't used the book so can't say if it's a good choice or not, but the Shan tofu and Shan tofu salad were delicious. Wish I could be more helpful.

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    2. You've been very helpful! I must have missed that paragraph b/c I decided to buy the book around page 53. :-) I have craved Burmese food for many years and cannot wait to explore the recipes in this book, vegan style!

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    3. I sure hope you like the cookbook! I just made the Shan tofu and it came out great, though I wish I'd used a bigger pot as it gets pretty aggressive when you add the flour and water mix to the boiling water in the pot. Yikes. I've eaten at Burma Superstar so I know what you're missing.

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  8. I'm floored that there's a non-soy tofu out there! I try not to eat too much soy because of my thyroid problems, so this would be perfect. I'm going to have to take a look at that recipe.

    I read the article you linked to, which was pretty amazing. A lot of things she said and went through I can relate to.

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    1. Um, it's not exactly TOFU as you know it. The taste and texture are quite different, but I love it! I just made some using the recipe in the Burma: Rivers of Flavor cookbook, which is very similar to the one in the recipe link. The youtube video has an extra step that's more traditional, but oh well. I'm lazy.

      About the blog post — I found it fascinating and helpful. Sayward really had a lot of courage to pursue her health issues so thoughtfully until she found the answers she needed.

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  9. I've never tried this; it sounds pretty tricky, but awfully yummy. It looks like what I imagine chickpea fries look like prior to being coated and, well, fried.

    Sometimes when I read your blog I think I'm about out of my depth as if I were at a neuroscientist convention; I'm lucky I get grilled cheese to come out right!

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    1. I made some yesterday (see above comment) and it wasn't hard except for the part where I discovered I didn't use a large enough pot and didn't turn the heat down enough and the stuff I was adding to the boiling water tried to hit the fan, so to speak. But it was easy ... really! And don't forget I didn't make the original batch — my son did. I just like to share.

      Nearly everything I make is EASY. I'm lazy. Maybe it just looks hard but I'll tell you if it is. Sometimes it's fun to play scientist (like with the cheese) but even the cheese is easy to make — just hard to wait for.

      I'm trying to make the Mexican dinner from our last cooking class for company tomorrow, and I'm wondering how it will turn out — so many parts to screw up. It's way more complicated than my usual attempts.

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  10. I really like chickpea flour but I didn't know it was possible to make tofu from it! Very interesting. I'd like to try that. The salad with sunflower seeds looks really great.
    Also, the whole Bonzai Aphrodite series of her last year is a pretty intense story.

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    1. This simultaneous commenting thing is weird.

      Like I mentioned before, it's not exactly like tofu — it's softer and silkier, but I think it's delicious. I want it all the time now, so I guess I'll have to keep making it until I can't stand the sight of it.

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  11. That's really interesting - I've not of chickpea flour tofu before. Could you marinate it and bake it like traditional tofu? I tried some shojin ryori tofu a while back that was made with a lot of kuzu, and the texture didn't really do it for me, but it's interesting to see non-soy tofu.

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    1. You can definitely marinate it. I stir-fried mine and it tasted great, but I haven't tried baking it.

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  12. i made the hilda's modern version (soy free tofu) with chickpea flour and also with gar-fava flour.. i like it more than the regular tofu. well its coz i dont like regular tofu and i liek chickpea flour in any way:)

    i also made some into fries, baked, broiled, grilled, fried.. it works out any which way!

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    1. I love tofu but I love the chickpea tofu, too. I stir-fried it in my wok but haven't tried baking yet. Thanks for the info.

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  13. I've heard of shan tofu and.... it sounded like a hassle to make, but with this ringing endorsement I think I'll try it sometime! Like.... vacation would be a good time....

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    1. That's what I thought, too, but wasn't hard to make at all. I really love it though it's really not like tofu in taste or texture.

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  14. I've seen a few different recipes for this using different quantities of the flour to water etc. I made some a couple of weeks ago using 1 cup of flour to 5 cups of water and added a little salt (soaked it overnight in the fridge). It sure was easy to make. I breaded it and fried it and we had it with veggies. It kind of reminded me of an omelette but geez we both liked it. I've since made it with lentil flour I made myself and followed the basic recipe and added chopped onion and some sauces. It came out the same basic texture. I haven't eaten any yet. I think this opens up the possibility of doing this with a lot of different beans and slicing it for sandwiches etc. I did like the chickpea tofu very much. A winner in our house and I'm so glad I had a go at making it.

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    1. It's not really like tofu, but I agree with you it is delicious!

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  15. My daughter is allergic to soy,nuts and seeds(lots of other stuff too!) but we love love chickpea Nofu! We make a "nofu butter" that is surprisingly close to peanut butter! Pepperoni,bacon, ice cream, cookies- even fake cream cheese! Love it! And glad to see other families adopting into their diets.
    http://mitochondrialdepletionsyndrome.blogspot.com/2012/10/nofu-butter-for-those-with-nut-allergy.html

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    1. Thanks for the link. The nofu butter sounds like a really creative way around a nut and seed allergy. It's amazing what people come up with!

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  16. Lovely recipe. To clarify U.S. copyright law: you absolutely can print a recipe that has previously appeared in a book or periodical -- as long as you do not receive payment for that republication. So unless you charge for your blog, you are free to post any recipe you want. You cannot copy the whole book, but fair use considers recipes "educational" and thus outside the scope of typical copyright protections. And you are giving the author free p.r. by posting and using her recipe -- most cooks I know find new cookbooks by trying out blogged recipes...!

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    1. Thanks for the information. I think that lists of ingredients are not copyright protected, but recipe directions should be re-written and the recipe attributed, before being printed. The exact phrasing states:.

      “Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.”

      It's a bit tricky to interpret.

      Delete

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