Bean curd is another name for tofu, a product made from soybeans, and sometimes other legumes as well. To make bean curd, a cook curdles soy milk and presses the resulting soybean curds into molds to firm up. The result is a block of white, neutrally flavored material which can be used in a wide assortment of dishes. There are numerous different styles of bean curd, as well as an assortment of ways in which the substance can be used. Bean curd has been made in China for thousands of years, and has spread throughout the world as a reasonably cheap, easy to make source of protein which is also very easy to manipulate in the kitchen. There are two basic types of bean curd. The first is silken, also called` Japanese style tofu. This type of bean curd tends to fall apart as it is is worked with, making it a great choice for dishes in which fragments of bean curd are desired. It is also used in vegan baked goods. Chinese style tofu is firm, and will hold its shape as it is worked with and cooked. In some places, Chinese style tofu is called bean curd, while Japanese style is called tofu. This can be confusing, but a close inspection of the package can usually sort the issue out. Once bean curd has been formed, it can be sent out to market as is, or it can undergo further treatment. It may be seasoned and pressed into blocks to form very dense, flavorful tofu. It can also be smoked, frozen, or fermented. Fermented bean curd is often mixed with spices and vegetables and used as a condiment. It can be added to dishes while they are cooking for flavor, or served on the side. Plain bean curd is available in many markets. It can be fried, steamed, sauteed, baked, or grilled. Vegetarians often use it as a meat substitute, since bean curd is rich in protein. It also absorbs flavor very readily, and is a compliment to many dishes. Make sure to use fresh bean curd quickly, as it can go bad. In Chinese markets, it is possible to find bean curd skin or yuba, a byproduct of the bean curd manufacturing process. As the soy milk is fermented, a thin skin forms on top. This skin can be dried in sheets or sticks and used for an assortment of things. Shredded bean curd skin is used in many Chinese dishes for texture and flavor. Whole bean curd skin can be used to wrap foods for steaming and frying as well.