in archived, Beijing Archive 2012-2016, Eating

Guide to Chinese Prepared Tofu and Other Vegetarian Fake Meat

I’m mostly vegetarian, so one of the best parts about living in China is the tofu.

However, I hardly ever eat that silky white slimy stuff that you buy in boxes in American grocery stores. Tofu options are on every menu (and are sadly sometimes accompanied by scraps of actual meat) and you can buy an array of prepared tofu that advertise as fake fish, chicken, etc. And at actual (usually Buddhist) vegetarian restaurants here, the vegetarian fake meats are extraordinary. Those are often not tofu, but rather seitan (AKA pure gluten!). My sister adores the mock duck, for instance, and that is usually seitan.

In addition to tofu, Chinese cuisine has a ton of soy-based sauces. Overall, I’m less fond of them than the tofu.

Anyway, so here’s what I have learned about all this delightful stuff:

  • Tofu is called 豆腐 (dòufu) and comes from soy beans (黄豆, huáng dòu).
  • Seitan is wheat gluten and is called 面筋 (miàn jīn)

Prepared tofu. A brand I have bought from larger grocery chains is 白玉 (báiyù). Found in the refrigerated section, often near prepared meats. They have a few flavors including 素啤酒肉片 (sù píjiǔ ròupiàn), which is sweet and can add flavor to an entire dish. Here’s a link to all Baiyu’s tofu-related products.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here on all the tofu that needs describing… the tofu that comes in flat sheets and can be cut with scissors. There is 腐竹 (fǔzhú) — is that soy? I’ll need to add some pics to this post and fill in a lot more when I find the time!

And if you want to explore non-vegetarian meat alternatives, there is an awesome thing called 鱼豆腐 (yú dòufu) which is not really fish or tofu, but like a kind of fish leftovers hot dog thing shaped into lovely cubes perfect for putting on skewers to barbecue or fry up with veggies. We enjoy tossing with Old Bay seasoning and frying. I have also made a decent pot pie with it.

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