Spicy tofu can be classified into many types, and is often categorized by the country of origin, the tofu texture, or the type of dish in which its used. A spicy tofu dish is both a spicy dish that is made with tofu and a dish made with tofu that is spicy. In restaurants, patrons can often order tofu dishes with low, medium, or high levels of spiciness. Tofu that is spicy appears frequently in stews, soups, and stir fried dishes.
Many world cuisines feature traditional spicy tofu dishes. Countries from which popular spicy tofu dishes originate are many, but include North and South Korea, Japan, and China. Dishes containing this ingredient include hot and spicy tofu, scrambled hot tofu, and spicy caramelized tofu. Another popular way to consume this ingredient is in a spicy tofu hotpot.
Spicy tofu can be made with all different textures of tofu, including firm, soft, and dry tofu. These dishes can be made with meat, or they can be vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarian dishes contain no meat, but they can contain eggs or dairy, like stir-fry with eggs and tofu. Vegan dishes contain no animal products, and often use the tofu in place of meat.
Some spicy tofu dishes can be mildly spicy, while others can be moderately spicy or nearly unbearably spicy. Many restaurants have a number or level system to help the patron order his spicy dish to taste. This gives the chef a guide so he can ensure that both a beginner and a seasoned eater of spicy dishes get food that is satisfying to their tastes.
The spicy element of these dishes is the chile pepper. Some dishes call for dried hot peppers, while others call for a common condiment of chile and garlic in a paste. Some cooks boost the heat in these dishes with hot sauces made with vinegar, chile, and flavorings like salt, black pepper, and garlic.
Tofu is essentially curdled soy milk. Japanese and Korean cuisines traditionally serve soft tofu curdled with fresh seawater, but commercial tofu is most often made using enzymes. It is used in a variety of dishes, including appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Soft tofu is particularly popular as a dessert item because its texture is similar to yogurt or pudding, making it a good choice for use in a sweet dish.