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The Tokwa in English “Tofu” is a delicate delicacy that is mostly found traditionally eaten and used around East and Southeast Asian cuisines. Made of dried soy beans soaked in water, turned into milk, then curbed until it forms into a solid block. This healthy ingredient has a different level of softness from firm, silken, soft, and more variations. A versatile ingredient famously added into almost anywhere from snacks, appetizers, main dishes-more so as a meat alternative, soups, and even desserts. In this article, we’ll find out more on “What is tokwa made of? ”, ” How to make tokwa? “, Benefits from being low in calories to a great source of proteins especially for vegans and vegetarians, the many Yummy Recipes you can make, and many more!

tokwa and tofu

Tofu Origins

Tofu or sometimes called “Bean crud” in other countries is a gluten-free ingredient made by curdling soybean / soy milk until it turns into a solid block. Cook in a multitude of ways and have more than 2,000 years of History. Its origin comes  from China calling it “dòufu”, the tofu meaning ( tokwa meaning ) was simply borrowed from the Chinese term, into the more known and associated with Japanese “Tofu” then, depending on the country has its own way of calling this white block of bean curd. The easiest documentation found in the English language where it was spelled as ‘towfu’ was in 1704 describing how it was made in a book called “A Collection of Voyages and Travels”. But many historians also believe that this ingredient has been discovered or made since the Han Dynasty. It was said that this was discovered by accidentally boiling the soybeans into a slurry with sea salt that helped turn it ‘gel-like’. Though some believed the Chinese learned it from Mongolians who had made the method of curdling milk.

What is tofu made of ? The process is similar to making cheese from milk. Starting with making the soy milk or buying some soy milk. ( see more about soy milk in this article “What is Soy Milk ?” ). The milk if usually made by cleaning then soaking the soybeans in water for a few hours to overnight, removing the skin or grinding right away, then filtering to get a nice smooth milk. Now that the soy milk is ready, this is then boiled with a coagulant, usually either Salt ( Calcium Sulfate or Chloride-tyle nigari salts ), Acid ( Glucono delta-lactone ), or Enzyme coagulants. The coagulation of oil and proteins are the most important step. Depending on the coagulants used there are a lot of variables on how these will interact with the milk. After these have curdled, they are then pressed firmly not tightly in the tofu mold, sometimes lined with cheesecloth. Though silken tofu does not need to be pressed. Letting this solidify a bit before taking the tofu out to be sliced, packaged then delivered.

This popular ingredient is so easy to use and transform from sweet, salty, sour, savory, and many more flavor profiles has become so poplar you’ll find almost the whole world has taken into it and has been used as a non-meat, vegan, vegetarian version of many other meat dishes, many have also added tofu in as an extra ingredient or filler into many other dishes. Great for all types of foodies.

tokwa in tagalog

In the Philippines

With the rise of tofu’s popularity, tofu does not only hold a Cultural Significance today, it’s a popular choice for many. The Philippines, for example, have been using this ingredient in many dishes, local to fusion recipes ever since it’s been introduced by the Chinese. The earliest reference of Tofu in the country being that of 1912 where a Chemistry Professor wrote an article about the production process. Back then this was spelled as “Toqua” in comparison to today’s “Tokwa”. These were fermented ‘tahuri’ or ‘tahuli’ from the south of China, made in large stone jars. These were baked slightly to extend its storage life.

Now you can find fresh and preserved tofu from the dry market, wet market, grocery stores, supermarkets, Specialty Asian grocery stores, and sometimes even side stalls ( some which have refrigeration or coolers ). In different sizes, and variations, there are a lot of Filipino dishes that have included this special ingredient in many recipes. A crowd pleaser being Crispy Tofu Adobo and Tofu Sisig. Many more popular uses of tofu are in sautéed dishes such as Ginisang Togue with Tokwa ( Bean Sprouts and Tofu recipe ), in stews like sinigang, filler for lumpia, in monggo soup, and a lot more Filipino specialties down below.

is tokwa and tofu the same

Tokwa vs Tofu

The difference between tofu and tokwa? These are one and the same with “Tofu” simply being the English and Japanese word for the Filipino “Tokwa” and vice versa. Though there are a lot of varieties of tofu in which some areas or stores that might have specific ‘tofu’ that they associate as ‘regular’ to other versions. For example; if you buy ‘Tokwa’ in a dry or wet market they might give you extra firm to firm blocks of tofu, these are somewhat dryer with a thicker skin, some packaged in airtight containers (these will be medium to smaller, thin blocks), and ‘Tofu’ are seen as the packaged ones with Chinese or Korean words ( in which they are typically in a bigger block type packaging to suit it’s bigger size ). Having a very extensive history. Simply put in the Philippines the most popularly used in levels of firmness comes are :

  • Extra Firm or Firm Tofu – great for when you need to fry, coat, or stew the tofu for a longer period of time as it will not crumble so easily. It’s also great for dishes with a lot of sauces as these will absorb the flavor well.
  • Silk Tofu – or ‘Silken Tofu” is a ready to eat tofu that’s only slightly firm and more soft. These are usually eaten as ‘taho’ or in most Asian dishes as an appetizer. Drizzling these in sauces, topped with leeks or a variety of toppings before serving.
  • Soft Tofu –  these are slightly less smooth but still delicate. While it can be used similarly to silken tofu, these are better cooked. In quick dishes like adding these at the end of the soup’s cooking time, or when you make a dish that don’t mind the tofu being slightly crumbly like in some sautéed dishes. This not soft tofu is popularly used in making ‘healthy desserts’ like tofu pudding, mousse, shakes, or adding into scrambled eggs for more protein.
  • Egg Tofu – That has been making rounds since Korean dramas, especially food dramas have been gaining popularity. This type of tofu falls in the middle of Soft and Silk tofu. Similar to soft tofu but shaped in a log form, like its name there is an addition of eggs in the ingredients and can be slightly fried if you’d like.
what is tofu

Tokwa Benefits

Is tokwa healthy? Tokwa calories only amount to 76 calories per 100 grams. With fried tokwa calories amounting to 270 for 100 grams. While looking bland and boring, these white soft blocks are actually great in many dishes as these absorb flavors well and are very healthy! These recently being a popular choice of meat alternative as firm tofu protein (tokwa protein) content is around 8 grams per 100 grams not only makes you feel fuller for longer these have a lot of benefits as well. Here are some Tokwa Benepisyo : 

  • A nutrient dense ingredient that has isoflavones ( a type of flavonoid ) that reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Soy based food such as tofu are also known to lower cholesterol. Strong evidence and claims show that it can help lower at least 3 % – 4% of bad cholesterol. Which in turn keeps the heart healthy and lowers blood pressure.
  • This having all these nutritional benefits are linked to help reduce the risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, lung, and stomach cancer.
  • Physical benefits include this being helpful to building muscles. An ingredient that has all 9 essential amino acids, magnesium, and calcium that repair tissues and bones as well as make them stronger.
  • Another benefit that many have claimed and is true is that this ingredient helps with weight management. Eating protein rich foods helps burn more calories and keep the body filling fuller for longer.

* While this may be very beneficial to the body, there are also some tofu health risks especially if being eaten in large amounts almost everyday. Over eating this ingredient may cause digestive ( gut ) and ovarian problems. This is due to disrupting beneficial bacterias around the digestive tract. While cooking tofu may help prevent this. Do take note to eat only the recommended amount and just like any other foods. In moderation.

tokwa ingredients

Tofu Recipes

How to cook tokwa? Or “Iba’t Ibang luto sa tofu ?” ( literally translates into “different ways to cook tofu” ) A great alternative to many meat dishes and are especially used in many Filipino vegan to vegetarian recipes. From being fried, stewed, sautéed, used as a filler, side dish, appetizer, or into the main dish. You’re sure to find a tofu recipe that suits you. Here are examples of easy tokwa recipes from Yummy Kitchen for you to try! :

What is tofu ?
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