I first tasted Palak Paneer or Cheese in Spinach Sauce more than 15 years ago in a Northern Indian restaurant. This is an Indian Vegetarian Dish. I fell in love with it. I don’t have Paneer at home, but I do have silken tofu. Why not substitute Paneer with tofu? They’re both white. :)
I know it’s easy to make Paneer. I saw Chef Michael Smith do that with milk and lemon juice. But 8 cups of milk for just that 1 small piece of cheese in return??? Nah, that’s too pricey. Tofu is much much cheaper. Chinese cheese that is, anyway.
At first glance, Mike said, what yuck is that??? But when he eats it…. Yummy.
So, do not judge this by it’s looks. It’s really good.
Palak Tofu (Serves 2-4)
150gm spinach (Por Choy not Yeen Choy(bayam), which is Amaranth), cut into 1 inch lengths.
1 smallish onion, about 30gm,
1 medium sized tomato
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup water
(omit both onion and garlic if Chinese Vegetarian)
Simmer onion, tomato, and garlic in water until soft. Remember to cut them smaller to reduce cooking time. Put in spinach. Cook until it wilts. It should only take less than 1 minute for that. Remove from heat. Puree until fine.
1 block silken tofu, cut into large pieces.
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, (Jintan Manis in Malay, do not leave this out, crucial, CRUCIAL!!!!)
Salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.
Heat pan/wok on medium heat and put in butter. When butter has almost melted, put in cumin and fry until very fragrant. It should take u about 10 seconds. Put in prepared spinach gravy. Bring to a boil and season with salt. Put in tofu to warm up. Pour into a deep dish to serve.
***Do not prepare the spinach gravy too early, it turns brown in just 2 hours.
Oh yes, I've got some people telling me that spinach are not to be cooked together with tofu and some also said they should not be consumed together on the same day. Ask them the reason, they do not know why.
So, I did some research on the internet,
Spinach contains oxalic acid and tofu (those made with gypsum, sek koh fun) contains a high calcium amount. Oxalic acid in spinach binds with the calcium in tofu and forms an insoluble oxalate that later will turn to kidney stones. Please read here, especially the part about "Calcium". Soy milk on the other hand does not contain much calcium that can be absorbed by the body, and so is safe to be consumed with spinach. So, the culprit here is the gypsum, not the bean.
So, should you try this dish out??? Yes, why not? It's the calcium from the gypsum that's the problem. Just buy those that are not made with calcium sulphate which is gypsum or sek koh fun. In Singapore it's not a problem because all tofu there are not made with gypsum, but in Malaysia, please read the labels and select tofu that does not contain "calcium sulphate/gypsum/sek koh fun", and get those coagulated with GDL or magnesium sulphate. These types of tofu are easily available at supermarkets/hypermarkets. If you buy at the wet market, most probably they are made with gypsum.
But if to you, once in a while thing is not an issue, then let it be. Any tofu will do.
From Wikipedia "Oxalate occurs widely in the plant kingdom, e.g. fat hen (lamb's quarters), sorrel, and Oxalis species. The root and/or leaves of rhubarb and buckwheat are listed as being high in oxalic acid.It arises biosynthetically via the incomplete oxidation of carbohydrates.
Other edible plants that contain significant concentrations of oxalate include—in decreasing order—star fruit (carambola), black pepper, parsley, poppy seed, amaranth (bayam), spinach, chard, beets, cocoa, chocolate, most nuts, most berries, fishtail palms, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) and beans. The gritty “mouth feel” one experiences when drinking milk with a rhubarb dessert is caused by precipitation of calcium oxalate. The calcium is abstracted from the casein in dairy products.
Leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) contain among the greatest measured concentrations of oxalic acid relative to other plants. However the infusion beverage typically contains only low to moderate amounts of oxalic acid per serving, due to the small mass of leaves used for brewing. "
Read this too: Taken from here
The following are some examples of the most common sources of oxalates, arranged by food group. It is important to note that the leaves of a plant almost always contain higher oxalate levels than the roots, stems, and stalks.
blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, kiwifruit, concord (purple) grapes, figs, tangerines, and plums
Vegetables (see Table 1 for additional information)
Most oxalate-dense vegetables: spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, collards, okra, parsley, leeks and quinoa
Moderately dense in oxalates : celery, green beans, rutabagas, and summer squash would be considered
Nuts and seeds
almonds, cashews, and peanuts
soybeans, tofu and other soy products
wheat bran, wheat germ, quinoa (a vegetable often used like a grain)
cocoa, chocolate, and black tea
So, after reading this,
Do you think it's only spinach that you should avoid with gypsum tofu or any other calcium rich foods???
No, it's like a whole list of food and tea
You can't eat your poppy seed cake, your summer fruit tart made with all sort of pretty berries, stir fried okra, your favourite bayam soup, or Chocolate cake, or even Milo when you are having Gypsum laden tofu that day. No nuts that day, no wine (they are made with grapes eh), no whole wheat stuff (cos they contain bran and germ), no teh tarik, no Ooloong... on the day you eat old fashioned tofu.
So whatcha gonna eat???
Just eat the tofu with plain rice and you'll be safe.
Or start buying tofu not made with Gypsum, then you can eat anything you like that day.
And it's not only old fashioned tofu, but any soluble, absorbable calcium rich foods that should be avoided with food that contains oxalic acid (which is like almost everything plant derived). Think about your calcium supplements, your favourite Hi-Calcium Milk, your yogurt, your cheese, your Hi-Calcium biscuits, your sardines, your ikan bilis. All these will react with the spinach, the star fruit, the grapefruit, the nuts, the berries and the chocolate you ate that day. And remember no Chinese tea or ice lemon tea after eating these.
How much can you avoid????
Better don't eat anything then.