Serious Eats

Chichi's Chinese: Tofu Skin 'Noodles' and Rolls

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Dried tofu skin. [Photograph: Chichi Wang]

This is the second post about tofu skin, that wonderful byproduct of soy milk. Last time, I talked about bean curd sticks—this week, we'll be covering sheets of tofu skin, which you can buy either dried or frozen.

Sheets of tofu skin are like the phyllo dough of Chinese cuisine. Well, okay, not quite—you can't make baklava from the tofu sheet, but they are extremely thin, and you can wrap them around any number of fillings, to make tofu skin packages. Think of them like caul fat, only a lot healthier, and substantial too. Braised in stock, the skin absorbs tons of liquid, turning soft and flavorful.

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Rehydrated dried tofu skin.

It's easy to use, too. Simply soak in water, then do with it what you please.

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Deep fried tofu skin rolls vs. not deep fried.

At dim sum, you may have seen the wrappers encasing ground pork or all-vegetable fillings of bamboo, shiitake mushrooms, and shredded carrots—they come in rolls or packages, which are first deep-fried, then braised in stock. My feeling about deep-frying in Chinese recipes is: yes, it most definitely can be bypassed, but then, well, you would miss an opportunity to eat delicious deep-fried fare. Besides which, deep-frying is used to add textural contrast. (But yes, skip if too onerous or health-concerned.)

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Another thing you can do with tofu skin: cut the sheets into strips and stir-fry them as though they were noodles. Now, usually, nothing in my book replaces the carbohydrated-goodness of wheat or rice noodles. Not shirataki, which is way too bouncy and infuriating to chew in noodle form. But tofu skin noodles are pretty darn good. You can slice the sheets into strands as thin or as thick as you want—I like something in between linguini and papardelle. Then, stir-fry with your choice of vegetables and protein, as you would noodles, and allow the strands of tofu skin to absorb all that wonderful residual wok liquor. It's delicious, nutritious, and entirely slurp-able.

About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.

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