The more water, the softer or ‘silkier’ the tofu; with less water, the tofu is firmer. Tofu is categorized as silken, regular, firm, extra-firm and super-firm.
Of all the types of tofu, firm tofu is the most widely available in supermarkets. Firm tofu is quite compact and is often packaged soaked in liquid – the amount depends on the type of packaging. Firm tofu is like feta: it doesn’t crumble when you pick it up and it is easy to chop. In the kitchen, firm tofu is the most versatile of the tofu types. It can be pan-fried, stir-fried, deep-fried, put in a stew, used as a filling or to make spreads. Be sure to fully dry firm tofu before cooking, to ensure it can absorb the marinade and will splatter less in the pan. Firm tofu can also be bought smoked or seasoned.
This tofu absorbs flavors well and can be stir-fried and pan-fried (how well it will hold together depends on the brand). It’s also great crumbled and used in tofu scramble and as a substitute for ricotta cheese. Nguyen suggests using it in simmered dishes and braises like ma po tofu. “It will fall apart, but that’s okay,” she says.