If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever. – Thomas Aquinas
Does plastic-wrapped tofu ever go bad? I found a package in the refrigerator that I had forgotten a long, long time ago.
Never one to shy away from an “experiment,” I decided to use it. It looked fine, and smelled fine. Tofu, by its very nature, is a fermented product, so I felt fairly safe.
Now I don’t advocate ignoring “best by” dates on food, but did you know that many expiration dates have nothing to do with food safety.
It can be confusing. Here’s a quick break down by the language used on packaging. But don’t take my word as gospel. If you have any worries, listen to your inner alarm.
Use-By / Best By / Best Before Date
These terms are usually found on shelf-stable products like mustard and peanut butter. This date is the manufacturer’s date when the product begins to loose “peak” freshness when unopened.
It has nothing to do with it being spoiled. Products dated this way may begin to loose colour, texture, etc., after this time. By examining the product you can easily tell if it’s bad.
And fermented products, even after being opened, are an entirely different ball of wax. Fish sauce, kimchi and the like can last a very, very long time. Very, very long.
This is used on perishable items like meats, fish and dairy. It’s for stores to know how long to display an item. After that time it starts to look a little ratty.
Expires On Date
This is a date that has been legislated for safety by the government. Use it before the date or toss it. Buh-bye.
Of course, use common sense when eating food that you’ve had for a while. But there are many resources to find out how long foods will last. Google is your friend.
The tofu looked fine, smelled fine and tasted fine. And I lived to tell the tale. Actually this recipe was one of the better tofu dishes I’ve ever had.
Seared hoisin tofu with radish & bok choy
Time: 15 min | Serves 2 or 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 Thai bird eye chillies, diced
1 lb extra firm tofu
1/4 cup water or vegetable stock
2 tbsp hoisin
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 baby bok choy
1/2 cup sliced radish (or daikon)
1 bunch green onion
1 tsp five spice powder
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a wide skillet with the garlic and chilli. Sauté for a minute or two. Don’t burn the garlic. Remove the garlic and chilli and set aside.*
While the garlic and chilli is infusing the oil, slice the tofu in half and then into 8 pieces. Add the tofu and brown well on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper while it is cooking.
While the tofu browns, pull the bok choy apart into individual leaves, thinly slice the radishes and chop the green onions. Set aside. Mix together the water, hoisin and soy. For a deeper flavour you can also add a couple teaspoons of fish sauce.
After the tofu is browned, add the hoisin mixture. Let the mixture evaporate until it thickens and coats the tofu on both sides. Do not let the sauce disappear completely, just thicken. Remove the tofu to a plate.
Add the bok choy, radish and green onion. Sprinkle with the five spice powder and some salt and pepper. Cook until the bok choy leaves have wilted slightly.
Serve with a dollop of additional hoisin on each plate.
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