Like most people who struggle with their weight, carbs are my downfall. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with carbohydrates. After all, they’re one of the three main sources from which our bodies obtain their calories. Without them, our brains wouldn’t function properly, our mood and memory would be affected, and we’d have no quick source of energy. So no one is decrying carbohydrates – it’s just that some of us eat too much from this useful food group. The problem is, though, once we’ve reached our healthy level of carb intake for the day, and still feel like a crunchy cracker, what can we reach for? The answer, as it turns out, is both unusual and delicious!
Most of us are by now familiar with tofu (even if we don’t eat it). It’s a fairly bland, white curd made from coagulated soy milk, and sometimes referred to as ‘the vegan’s friend’. Low in carbs, it’s a rich source of plant-based protein which can be used to replace meat in everything from casseroles to stir-fries. However, when tofu is frozen (for several days), it completely changes its colour and texture.
Fresh tofu is soft and silky – think cream cheese but softer. When it’s frozen, ice crystals pierce cell walls in the tofu, releasing water. These ice crystals also create holes in the tofu which remain once the block has been thawed, giving it a layered appearance. It’s this layering which is responsible for the product’s Chinese name of ‘thousand-layer-tofu’.
The freezing process also turns the tofu a creamy-yellow, and changes its texture so that it becomes elastic and springy. Once the thousand-layer-tofu has been squeezed to remove all its water, it can be used in many ways. It’s a great sponge for soaking up marinades, making it ideal to use in place of meat. It can be crumbled and added to soups, or simmered in a beef broth to replace mince-meat. But its use as a cracker alternative is second to none because thousand-layer-tofu contains just a fraction of the carbs we would find in our usual crunchy snack.
To prepare thousand-layer-tofu as a cracker, simply use clean hands to squeeze out as much water as possible from the thawed block. Cut a 4-5mm-thick slice of the thousand-layer-tofu, and press it between kitchen paper towels to remove any moisture that still remains. Place the slice between the jaws of a flat-bed sandwich press (no oiling is required) and toast until the thousand-layer-tofu turns a light golden colour. Your cracker is now crisp and crunchy and waiting for the topping of your choice. Don’t leave it too long before you eat it because the crackers lose their crunchiness within an hour or so of being toasted.
Not only is your thousand-layer-tofu cracker significantly lower in carbs than a regular cracker, it’s also going to help keep you feeling satisfied for longer because of its high protein content.
Making your own thousand-layer-tofu
To make thousand-layer-tofu, purchase a block of firm (not ‘silken’ tofu). Freeze it for at least one week (texture develops over time). Defrost the block until all ice crystals have melted (this can take longer than you think as the thousand-layer-tofu is spongy and acts as an insulation material). Using clean hands, squeeze out the water from the defrosted block, and store the thousand-layer-tofu in an air-tight container in the fridge. The thousand-layer-tofu can be returned to the freezer until you are ready to use it.