Q I'd like to give my hamsters tofu since many people have recommended it, but I'm not really sure what to feed or how to keep it. The package says to use it up in two days and not to freeze it. Is that right?

If the household eats tofu, ideally you'd give the hamsters small pieces of fresh tofu on a regular basis. Tofu is a staple in Japanese households, but friends who aren't familiar with it have told me it's a more difficult taste to acquire than I would have thought.

When keeping it, it depends on the tofu. Tofu is actually a main component of many different Asian cuisines. The Chinese call it "doh fu", the Koreans call it "du bu" and so on.

The the most refined variety is Japanese tofu, for the simple reason that in most of the other cuisines, the tofu is cooked, spiced and even fermented, but in Japan it is mostly eaten raw, and so it requires different handling
procedures. You may find it a tastier tofu, however, if you decide to give it a try along with your hams.

Japanese tofu can be found in the U.S. in aseptic packages (cardboard, foil-lined "bricks"), under the brand names Kikkoman and Mori-nu. These packages can be stored unrefrigerated for an indefinite time until they are opened, and are therefore very convenient. After opening the box, it's best to pour the block of tofu into a container, immerse it in clean water and refrigerate it. Change the water in the container daily, and the tofu will remain good for about five days, possibly six. Tofu that is past its prime will take on a distinct tang, and possibly a reddish tinge. It is not terribly dangerous, but doesn't taste good. If in doubt, drop the tofu in boiling water for a few minutes. This revives the taste and texture. This type of tofu generally comes in three levels of "firmness". This really doesn't matter, but medium to extra firm are a bit easier to work with. If you're using it yourself, I'd stick with medium.

Chinese tofu may be more available where you are. It's most often found in plastic, water-filled "tubs". It comes in a very hard-textured form and a slightly fluffier, larger shape. The latter is best for hams. As I say, this tofu is made to be cooked, and so it is less refined, and will go bad more quickly. Therefore if you are going to keep it for any period of time, I recommend that you parboil it before putting it into the water you're going to refrigerate it in. After that, change the water daily, as above.

Tofu can definitely be frozen, and there are even recipes in both Japanese and Chinese cuisines that use frozen/thawed tofu as a component. But the texture is completely different, and the hams might or might not be inclined to eat it. Also, nutritional value is somewhat diminished.

Speaking of nutritional value, tofu is very high in protein, low in calories, and has almost no fat (and absolutely no saturated fat) It is also high in trace minerals. It's a nearly perfect health food. If you're interested in its nutritional makeup, have a look here:
http://www.tofu.com/whatis.html I cannot comment on the editorial content of the page, but the factual content is right on the money.

Generally, just give the hamsters a small piece of tofu to eat. Make sure it is only enough for them to eat in a short period of time, and check back to remove any uneaten portions. It's a healthy and inexpensive treat which most enjoy.
Feeding Hamsters Tofu
by David Imber
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