Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making tofu with Yin Yang's Margaret Xu

The only Detour event (architecture event held in Dec 2010 - I'm totally living in the past, I know) I went to this year was a 'masterclass' with Margaret Xu, the acclaimed self-taught chef and owner of locavore restaurant/private kitchen Yin Yang.

The class was held at the newish Classified cheese room in Exchange Square (I have to say, having to endure delicious wafting cheese smells throughout class was a tad painful). Margaret turned up in her classic newspaper boy hat with her assistant and several City Super bags, and demonstrated two dishes, basil and beetroot tofu, and uni 'cup noodle' (ramen in mini cups).

I'm only going to talk about the tofu part here, because the uni noodles were just weeny espresso cups filled with ramen tossed in pasta sauce and uni.

Firstly, I don't have a recipe and I wasn't a very good student - there was no note-taking whatsoever on my part, so I'm going by (fuzzy) memory.

In a medium stockpot, about a litre of soybean milk was put on a stove and brought to 80 degrees celcius. About 200 ml of beetroot juice was poured in, tainting the soymilk pink. The heat was turned off, and, while stirring at a medium-ish speed (no foam, it was calm but brisk), about 50 ml of nigari (firming agent) was poured in a very slow stream. Margaret would stop sometimes just to stir a little more to make sure the nigari was being evenly distributed.

When it looked like little flecks started to form (little solid/jelly-like soy milk bits), Margaret poured a little of the mixture through a fine muslin cloth. If the liquid coming out is clear, it's ready. Basically you're straining all the liquid away from the soy milk solids. We were left with a rather large clump of what looked like damp residue, but this was in fact to become our tofu. The clump was disgorged from the muslin into a square wooden Japanese tofu-making stand, with the muslin spread gently on top of the tofu. It was a box with very fine gaps in the sides so any remaining liquids would come out, which happened when she fit the lid into the box, and pressing lightly onto the muslin, then the tofu bits. A small weight was put on top of the lid to pack the tofu bits more tightly together (but not too tightly).

The same process was used for the pale green layer you see on top, for which Margaret used basil juices, resulting in this bi-level cake of tofu.

Taste-wise, I couldn't detect basil and beetroot, it was just a rich soy flavour. As for texture, it's substantially heavier and grainier than your average tofu. It certainly doesn't produce the silken kind used in sukiyaki etc. - that requires the use of other firming/setting agents and, to my knowledge, no pressing.

It was a fun experience, with a fun bunch of 'classmates', but whether it was worth HK$800, well...


  1. Too bad... The concept of making tofu is a great idea... If done right of course :)

  2. This makes me so fearful for when I eventually try Yin Yang...

    And for her upcoming restaurant together with Posto Publicco...

  3. And now that you know how, would you ever tofu yourself? It doesn't sound that hard....

  4. Gregoire - can't agree more!

    Tom - well, there's always a first. I am very curious about Cantopop... I'll probably still want to try it

    Sarah - I don't think I will, I like my market tofu guy and/or crazy exensive Japanese tofy from City Super - unless I have some really weird flavour I want to put in that I can't buy.

  5. Interesting idea with the basil, thanks for sharing your experience.