November 19, 2006

When Curry Meets Tofu...

Curry and tofu could not be more different, whatever the contrarians might say. Curry, as many of you know, is a hodge-podge of several spices, but tofu is as homogeneous a spread as anyone can hope to get. While curry comes in many flavors — from mildly spiced to pepper hot — tofu is flavorless. Tofu, however, can be silky smooth or tough as a bamboo, a range of textures unmatched by curry, which is usually made in the form of a powder. Tofu is rich in proteins that help in developing the muscle power much needed in activities that require more brawn than brain. Curry, it is believed, helps those engaged in activities that place a premium on soft skills, by promoting free and unfettered thinking. Tofu is made by a tightly controlled mechanical process, whereas curry is blended in relatively free and informal, some say too informal, settings.

For a long time, curry and tofu haven't had much of a presence in international cuisine, but in recent years both have seen rapid growth in their popularity. Tofu took an early lead in its exposure to the world markets, a lead that some gourmet gurus say is insurmountable for curry. In the 1970's, a couple of short-sighted Yankees, reeling from a dwindling supply of beef, decided to explore tofu for hamburger use. Battered by the cold wind blowing down from Siberia, the beef eaters were desperate for the essential proteins needed to protect them. Tofu, they thought, was god sent, even though the tofu suppliers had long severed their relationship with the god fearing opium addicts. Since then, tofu has had such a meteoric rise in its use as a substitute for beef, that the beef producers have now started wondering if was a folly, after all, to have invested so much in tofu. Lately, a move to contain the rise of tofu is gaining ground among the beef producers, and they have started promoting the use of curry in hamburgers and sandwiches instead.

The domestic markets for curry and tofu also have some contentious overlapping segments. A significant and highly influential number of tofu worshipers can be found among the curry consumers, but the converse is not true. Few tofu concoctions used any spice, and using curry in them is unthinkable for most tofu consumers. A small number of free spirited consumers of curry-like blends, living on the fringes of the otherwise unexciting tofu land, have been forced to take refuge in the the curry land. Several decades ago, a naive curry lover's attempt to sell it to the tofu consumers, ended with disastrous results. Despite these historic mishaps, the tofu worshipers in the curry land continue to advocate a closer relationship and an amicable resolution of the conflicts between the two neighboring elements in the food chain. They believe, incorrectly if you asked me, that curry and tofu have more in common than either of them has in common with beef.

This week, we hear, marks the introduction of a new concoction of a self-proclaimed top of the tofu offerings, with a mild curry that has been voted by many as the best. This introduction follows immediately after a successful campaign last week to carve out a place for curry in the nucleus of hamburger. Let's wait and taste what we get. The proof of the curried tofu, as they say, is in the eating, and not in all the colors that will surely emanate from the plastic props in the display window.

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