.Crispy Fried Tofu.
Well, the time has come...
It's time to talk about Tofu.
In my opinion, tofu is one of the most versatile ingredients in a plant-based diet, but easily one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented ingredients as well!
When people make fun of a vegetarian or vegan diet, the easy punch line always has something to do with "bland tofu...", or "all they eat is tofu and it's soooo boring"... ha.. ha.. ha...
While I find these jokes annoying (to say the least), they are not entirely wrong about tofu having very little flavor. What is entirely wrong is the assumption that this amazing ingredient is incapable of flavor and only cooked in boring ways.
Tofu (for those unfamiliar), is a plant-based product made from beancurd. The process of preparation starts with coagulating soy milk and then pressing the bean curds into solid blocks. There are so many varieties of tofu; silken, firm, extra firm, sprouted, and the list goes on.
Now... Let's get back to flavor. Yes, tofu has very little flavor of its own... But, because of this truth, it takes on spice, marinades, and seasoning very well. Unlike other ingredients, which impart so much of their own flavor into a dish often affecting the overall result, this ingredient allows the seasoning or accompanying components to shine... And, when you're planning a beautiful dish, that is pretty great news!
Most tofu, unless you are buying pre-baked tofu, comes in a package with some residual liquid. This liquid keeps the tofu moist. If you're intending to simply add it "raw" to a salad, or throw it into a stir-fry then be prepared for the tofu not to take on as much flavor from your sauce or seasoning. The sponge like texture of tofu means that when it's full of its own liquid it will have a hard time taking on the flavors of a sauce or marinade. This is where a "tofu press" comes in handy! A tofu press is a very convenient cooking tool and is one of the least expensive kitchen toys you'll find.
A tofu press allows the cook to press the liquid out of a block of tofu over the course of several hours, or minutes. For those not ready to purchase this tool, the simplest technique is to wrap your block of tofu in paper towels, place it on a plate and then stack a heavy pot or pan on-top. Every 15 minutes flip the tofu block over. Most chefs will tell you (including home cooks), invest in the tofu press... Pans and pots slide on the wet tofu, and in the long run it can be quite a hassle.
I was lucky enough to get this wonderful press as a gift from EZTofu Press, but the price point is perfect for most home cooks and I highly recommend buying your own! Below is the link to their website:
Ok, so now let's talk about all of the fantastic ways you can cook tofu!
Here are my recommended ways:
2. Marinating and Baking
This recipe focuses on pan-frying tofu. It is simple, cost effective, and depending upon what flavor profile you are aiming for, pairs very well with most cuisines. I enjoy pan frying tofu because it can provide a light, airy crunch to any heavy dish, or bulk up a lighter dish. I typically fry my tofu in olive or canola oil. Extra firm tofu is the best for frying and baking. I do not recommend using silken tofu for these high heat recipes. Pressing silken tofu typically makes it break a part, and it's hard to cut it into even pieces for frying/baking. Silken tofu is typically used for sauces, condiments, and desserts.
I made a sauce for the tofu to throw into the pan in the last moments of cooking... It is not a necessary step for this recipe, and if you use a sauce be mindful that it does not burn in the hot pan. A few moments in the pan is plenty!
The sauce consists of soy sauce, ginger, and rice wine vinegar.
Let's get to frying!
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.Crispy Fried Tofu.
Green onions (optional)
Baking and Spices:
Oil- (Olive or Vegetable)
Extra Firm Tofu
Sambal (chili sauce)- optional
To begin remove the tofu from its package and drain the liquid.
Then place the block of tofu either into a tofu press or under a heavy pan.
Follow instructions of your specific tofu press.
Tighten the press approximately every 10 minutes.
Press for 40 minutes total.
When the moisture has been removed from the tofu, release it from the press. The block of tofu should be considerably flatter and dryer.
Next cut the tofu into cubes. The size of each piece of tofu is entirely dependent upon how you intend to use it in a dish.
In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium high heat. Be mindful of the oil spitting. Place the tofu tubes into the oil and season lightly with salt. Continue to flip the cubes over in the oil to help create an even golden brown color and a crispy fried texture all the way around.
When the tofu has turned golden brown, pour 1/4 a cup of sauce onto the frying tofu. Remove quickly from the heat to avoid burning. Season with a pinch of salt.
When the tofu has absorbed some, but not all of the sauce, transfer to a new bowl and top with green onions and side of chili sauce.
Enjoy this crispy fried tofu in stir-fry, curry, tacos, buddha bowls, and even as a topping for soup or salad!
Someone tell me again how boring tofu is... I think not!