As a vegan, it’s easy to eat A LOT of soy. Actually, these days, it’s easy to eat a lot of soy even if you’re an omnivore. It’s in so many things.
A popular source of protein for vegans and vegetarians is, of course, tofu. And while I love tofu and all varieties of it, I am trying to be very conscious of the amount of soy I take in. I know the topic of the health and environmental impacts of soy is controversial and people stand on opposite sides of the issue (and a lot depends on the form of soy in question). But I don’t like to overdo anything, and I say, “better safe than sorry.” Plus, I love a culinary challenge and welcome as many ways to take in my protein as possible.
I have become kind of obsessed with hemp seeds lately. They contain all essential amino acids and fatty acids, and are therefore a complete source of protein. In addition, hemp is not a common allergen, like soy or nuts. And, most importantly, they are delicious. They have a nutty, creamy taste. I put spoonfuls on my coconut yogurt in the morning. I make fresh hemp milk. So, I figured, why not make some hemp tofu? Hey, the Italians already do it commercially!
I got inspiration for this recipe from a few sources, mainly from a forum member on Post Punk Kitchen, named “vegimator” who makes tofu out of pumpkin and hemp seeds, and from a Finnish blog named Mammi who calls the finished product “hefu.” I took their advice, combined it with my knowledge of tofu-making, and started experimenting.
This recipe yields a more crumbly tofu than soy tofu. Soy tofu is usually made after straining liquid from the pulp (or okara). I tried this technique with hemp and not enough solids were left in the strained out liquid to coagulate. Using the milk as is, straight from the blender, did work (and a Vitamix helps create a very smooth milk). Hemp tofu is great seared, for a scramble, or a stir-fry, if you don’t mind having rustic, non-cube chunks. Or do what I did: simply drizzle with some sweet soy sauce (equal parts soy sauce and sugar, simmered until thickened) and sprinkle with nori strips. The sweet soy sauce and nori goes great with the creaminess and earthiness of the hemp!
Hemp Tofu (or “hemp-fu” or “hefu”)
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: a few blocks, depending on size of tofu mold
2 cups shelled hemp seeds
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered nigari (available at Rainbow Grocery), which will be dissolved in 1 additional cup of water (Note: I have seen recipes for hemp tofu where a coagulant is not even used, so feel free to skip this part. Although, you may get a more crumbly result.)
- Blend hemp seeds with water for one minute at high speed (I used a Vitamix) to make hemp milk.
- Put hemp milk in a pot and, partially cover it and bring to a boil. You’ll start to seeing curds forming.
- When it reaches a low boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and boil the milk for four minutes, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Meanwhile, dissolve the nigari in a cup of warm water.
- Remove the pot from the stove, wait until the temperature reaches 155F. Add half the nigari solution and stir briskly for a few seconds. Wait until the liquid stops moving. Then add the rest of the nigari solution and gently stir a few times. Let sit 15 minutes.
- Place a cheesecloth over a colander and strain the curds out.
- Take an amount of curd that will fit in your press (this recipe makes a good bit of curd), place in another piece of cheesecloth and twist to get ALL of the liquid out. If it’s too hot to squeeze, you can try squeezing with tongs.
- Place the ball of curd, still in the cloth, into a tofu press/mold, and press the curd down. Stack a few bottles or cans on top as a weight. [I bought a cheap wooden press for four dollars at Daiso in Japantown, but I think I’m going to invest in a TofuXpress so that I don’t have to worry about stacking cans on the press.]
- Let the press stay for 30 minutes. Then unmold the hemp tofu and enjoy!