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Tofu all the way

Quite delightful in the hands of an imaginative chef, tofu is transformed into interesting dishes at the Oriental Pearl, GRT Grand

Wonder food of the millennium: Tofu dishes at Oriental Pearl. — Pic by R. Ragu

YOU JUST can't escape tofu these days. Not content with hanging out in Chinese woks for more than 2,000 years, it now sneaks into diet charts across the world, wheedles its way on to supermarket shelves and smugly flexes its protein enriched muscles at you from between the covers of glossy magazines.

Now, for all those of you who have no clue what tofu is, (and that includes those of you who have been glibly pretending you do all these days), it comes from the soybean, just like cheese comes from milk. The bean is soaked, strained, pulverised and boiled to make soymilk, which is then separated, just like curds and whey, so the ensuing mash can be made into tofu.

Although tofu is being hailed as the wonder food of the millennium (the way tofu enthusiasts talk about it makes you wonder why Popeye wasted time mucking around with those foul cans of spinach), most Indians are intensely suspicious of the food since it tastes like wannabe paneer to most, and who wants to eat a wannabe anything? Even if it does burst with amino acids, fat-free protein and swank about cholesterol-reducing properties.

Fortunately for the Soy brigade, Chef David Kau from the Oriental Pearl — a speciality Chinese and Thai restaurant at the GRT Grand — has been brave enough to take on the wonder bean, and showcase it for the city.

Now, the best thing about soy is the fact that it is bland enough to take on the flavour of surrounding ingredients and can therefore be quite delightful in the hands of an imaginative chef

Fascinating variety

Chef Kau, for instance, conjured up a bewilderingly vast variety of tofu dishes, making it possible for us to eat an entire tofu meal without being tempted to crawl under the table, attack the doorman with chopsticks and then run for the hills.

The meal began with soy milk, so strongly flavoured with litchee and mango that it tasted more like a cross between a fruit juice and milk shake than a tofu shake. A salad, made with firm cubes of tofu tossed with crunchy onions, strips of chicken and celery followed along with a spicy tuna salad sprinkled with tofu and a steaming clear soup afloat with silken tofu, (which by the way, has an incredible melt-in-the-mouth texture.)

Well-made meal

Since tofu soaks up flavours, pretty much like potato, which can be fried, sautéed, baked, boiled, grilled for different flavours, a well-made tofu meal can be like an artist's vibrant palette, where every colour has its own distinct characteristic.

The Tofu Pepper Salt, which is made of batter fried tofu slices, for instance, tastes something like fish fingers, while the tofu lollypop is a spicy sweet and sour version of its barbequed chicken counterpart.

For the main course, there's chicken in a gingery sauce peppered with tofu and succulent water chestnuts and a rather strong minced lamb, lolling in celery flavoured spicy sauce. Both are served with either rice or noodles, generously tossed with you-know-what.

They didn't go as far as a tofu dessert, and by that point we were rather thankful about the fact.

Versatile is nice... but then, sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. On till January 23.


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