What To Eat When Eating Is Hard: Soft Tofu

Not too long ago I had a tooth with a filling. It was #15, on the top left, which for those of you not familiar with dentistry is the back tooth. It had a filling, and then it didn’t. In place of the filling was a hole.

Without going into gory detail the hole was not optimal for the health of the tooth and a couple of weeks ago it started hurting. By “hurting,” I mean “agonizing pain that I could only alleviate with cool water.” This lasted four days, during which time I did not sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and I could not eat anything that was not, texturally speaking, gruel.

I am a fan of gruel in some circumstances. My grandmother used to make us what she called “mush” for breakfast. It was polenta, basically, and we’d eat it sometimes with salt, butter and bacon and other times with sugar and cream. I still make polenta once or twice a month and I’m not suggesting it’s a hardship to eat it.

Indeed, once corn was introduced to the Old World, cornmeal cooked in that manner became a staple in many places. It’s delicious and nutritious but one can only eat so much of it without wishing one had something other than cornmeal pudding to consume.

I had surgery to remove the offending tooth last Tuesday, and it was a success. For a few days, though, I still needed to eat only soft things. Because I was on antibiotics, yogurt was recommended and fortunately I like yogurt with honey or fruit jam mixed in. I ate broth and drank a lot of protein drinks called “Ensure,” which are not bad if you absolutely need calories and cannot chew very well.

The best thing I ate, however, was super-soft tofu. This is a product that is common in most of Asia and is the consistency of a loose flan or custard. It has a very delicate flavor that most people would describe as “flavorless,” but if you top it with something you like to eat, it’s fantastic.

I started with soy sauce and grated ginger, then with an oil I make that’s flavored with shallot, garlic and chiles. Eventually, I risked some texture and topped it with Laoganma Spicy Chile Crisp, which is a thing of beauty by itself and heavens to Betsy is it good on top of super-soft tofu.

I would not recommend waiting until you have agonizing tooth pain to try super-soft tofu, because in addition to just eating it with something on top it’s also fantastic whipped up with a sweetener and chocolate as a pudding, as an addition to soups and, of course, as the main ingredient of Mapo Tofu.

Locally, you can purchase super soft tofu at the Golden City Market in Metairie and at Hong Kong Market on the West Bank. I’m sure there are other places to get it, but those are the ones of which I’m aware. I heartily recommend both places if you have an interest in cooking Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, or other Asian cuisines.

I’m back to eating solid foods now, thank God, but I’ve still got a couple of packages of that tofu in the fridge, and I’m looking forward to consuming them with something more substantial.

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