Tofu vs Bean Curd [The Small But Important Difference]

Welcome to this tofu vs bean curd guide. If you're looking to understand the difference between tofu and bean curd, you're in the right place.

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TOFU VS BEAN CURD

This article will dive into the technical differences between tofu and bean curd. We'll also talk about what to expect at restaurants that list either or on the menu.

Let's get right to it!

Are Tofu and Bean Curd the Same?

Yes and no. Tofu is bean curd, but bean curd isn't exactly tofu. Bean curd is the curdled soy milk that you get when you mix it with a coagulant. Technically speaking, bean curd becomes tofu once it is pressed and formed.

To understand this more clearly, you need to understand how tofu is made...

  • The first step when making tofu is to make soy milk. Soy milk is made by soaking and grinding soybeans and then straining out the pulp.
  • Once the pulp is strained out, the real tofu making process can begin. The soy milk must be curdled using a coagulant. Nigari, or magnesium chloride is what's typically used, but people also have success with things like lemon juice and vinegar.
  • Next, the bean curd must be separated from the liquid using a cheesecloth or other fine mesh device.
  • Finally, the tofu can be pressed and formed into the block that everyone is familiar with. This is when it's officially made it's transition from bean curd to tofu!

Did You Know?

A tofu press is used to drain the water out of a block of tofu so that more flavor can get in. Some are also designed with the dual purpose of pressing the curds themselves to form the tofu block.

Click here to learn more about tofu presses...

Check out the video below to see the process in action.

So What Does Bean Curd Mean on Restaurant Menus?

It's quite common to see something like "Vegetables and Bean Curd" on a Chinese food take out menu. 

When you see this, it does not mean that you're going to get curdled soy milk on top of your veggies. That would be kind of gross.

It means that you're going to be ordering vegetables with tofu. Usually the tofu comes fried unless you specify otherwise.

The words bean curd and tofu are almost always used interchangeably.

The only time you may see actual curds at a restaurant is if you order a traditional Asian soup. There's usually still firmer blocks of tofu in there, but some curds are still floating around.

What is Bean Curd Made Of?

Here's a tofu ingredient statement from Nasoya...

"Water, organic whole soybeans, nigari (sea water extract), calcium sulfate"

As mentioned in the first section, bean curd can also be made with lemon juice, vinegar or another coagulent.

But the ingredient statement above is what you're most likely to see.

What Is Fried Bean Curd?

Fried bean curd is another way of saying fried tofu.

If you read the recipe above (or watched the video), you probably noticed that it would be virtually impossible to fry the loose bean curd before it is pressed into a block. Everything would just fall apart.

So when you're ordering fried bean curd at a restaurant, you're ordering fried tofu.

Final Word on Bean Curd vs. Tofu

Yes, I admit, this article was a bit heavy on the technicalities.

But as a tofu lover, I thought it was important to clearly communicate the difference!

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