This article takes us to Indonesia! The cost of living draws Australians for their "spring break", transforming multiple parts of this island into clones of Ibiza or Cancun...whereas other are mostly dedicated to well being and adventure.
As far as we were concerned, our palate was the guide to our curious mind.
In Southeast Asia, tofu is both a common dish and prized one.
When Westerners think "tofu", they imagine this kind of pristine white "flan", quite tasteless if not properly cooked. But things are different in Asia, where different kinds of tofu yield very different tastes.
The best we had was in Bali, Indonesia. Little guest tables called warung can be found there, and these serve tofu as a starter or a main dish for a few cents!
In Ubud, Balinese town famous for its inspired and creative alternative cuisine, we got to discover the wide range of tofu flavors.
Our curiosity took us to one family tofu business in the area, a few kilometers from the main town.
We rented a scooter and drove along fields of pandan (a local edible plant) to get to our somewhat remote destination.
Once there, we manage to communicate with the family and employees with few words and lots of smiles. The place is far from the near pharmaceutical-lab look we kind of expect
in the Western world. Empirical wisdom prevails. Every day 300kg of tofu is made from yellow soybeans.
Submerged in spring water, it’s then boiled through vaporization. An airtight barrel of water is heated with a wood shavings fire. A vertical pipe runs from the barrel to the vat where the preparation is waiting.
The soy will begin dislocating, oozing a creamy substance.
This cream then flows into a first basin where it cools down for a while, then into another equipped with a piece of cloth. The cloth absorbs the excess of water, shaping the paste into a wafer.
The wafer then goes into another container (that paste traveled more than us it feels like!) where constant pressure is applied to finish removing any excess of water.
But the cream drying process isn’t over just yet. Wooden rectangular presses are the next step. Very simple slabs of stone are piled on top of the tofu paste...
...giving it its very distinct shape.
After several hours of press, the paste is cut into equal pieces.
Part of the yield is sold as is, the rest goes back into the simmering water for enhanced firmness and better preservation.
Even today, as we’re writing this, the taste lingers. Also, it’s been very nigh impossible eating industrially made tofu since we came back.