after the recent post about tofu, i'm wondering if anyone's got any really good recipes using tofu. i love the stuff when i have it out, but when i cook it at home the results are never very good. also, what cooking websites would anyone recommend, in general? thanks! k
I make several good dishes using tofu.
-Tofu Scramble: mash up tofu with a fork and cook cook with whatever sounds good (I use spinach, green onions, red peppers, mushrooms and feta).
-Tofu with Soy Sauce & Green Onions: slice 1 block of tofu and arrange on a plate, drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with green onions. You can also add cilantro or red pepper flakes.
-Sometimes I just heat slices of tofu in a hot skillet until sort of brown and toss on a salad.
re: Jane Hathaway
i love a good tofu scramble. i think i read this on the pkg: using firm tofu, grate it (like on an old-fashioned cheese grater) and microwave it for about 30 seconds -- this helps to separate some of the liquid, this strain it in a colander or sieve. then, when you scramble with whatever ingredients you hv on hand (in a little olive oil with garlic, veggies, etc.) it will not be so watery.
re: Jane Hathaway
I second the scramble. I always underestimate how good this is -- nothing like scrambled eggs, but absolutely fantastic.
I also like it grilled, either in sandwiches or on top of salads. You don't have to marinate if there's a flavourful sauce or dressing with it.
It's good simmered, too, in any kind of broth. Pour the whole thing on top of noodles and veggies in a bowl.
I like to marinate and then bake it. This is described in detail in "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics", but basically you cut it into cubes, marinate in something teriyaki-like (or other flavorings), then bake in a single layer, stirring occasionally, till it's as brown and chewy as you like it.
My mother makes a mean mock curried egg salad with tofu.
I love the marinated, oven-baked tofu, Buttercup. You can add it to stirfries, later, or just eat it as a snack.
My marinade is just a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onion powder and toasted sesame oil (or sometimes cinnamon and cumin instead of sesame oil). Baste the tofu occasionally, while baking on low heat. You'll want to use firm tofu for this prep.
One thing I do because its easy: whisk together vegetable oil, soy sauce and bottled oyster sauce. Squeeze the water out of the tofu (I set it on a slanted board and weight it down with a plate for ten minutes), cube it, fry it until browned after sloshing it around in the sauce.
I use about two tablespoons of each of the above for one block of tofu, but proportions are approximate.
I second this recommendation. For any stir-fry, pre-frying the tofu separately is a good idea--it gives more texture and firmness. If you just toss it in with other vegetables, it never seems to cook right.
One easy quick meal is to pan fry the tofu, and then make a peanut sauce and blanch some Chinese broccoli. Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" has several peanut sauce recipes.
Or if you can grill, you can make tofu kebabs (soy sauce, sesame seed oil, chopped green onion, a little sugar, garlic marinade) with cubes of tofu, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc (Moosewood's Broccoli Forest Cookbook has a simple recipe, but you can just put the above and taste). Always a big hit with vegetarians at barbecues. You can also stick the kebabs in the oven and bake them, though the result is not as good.
My favorite recipe is steamed tofu that has been stuffed with a portion of minced shrimp. The tofu is then topped with fermented black bean and garlic.
Cut the tofu (usually a 1 lb. block) into 8 rectangular pieces. Scoop out a portion of the center to accomodate the stuffing.
The stuffing is a 1/3 lb of fresh shrimp, minced up finely and mixed with 1/2 tsp of cornstarch, a little rice wine and salt.
The black bean preparation could be bought or home made.
Divide the stuffing among the 8 pieces of tofu. Place the tofu on a plate, top them with the black bean preparation, pop into the steamer, steam for
20 minutes. (It helps to have one of those huge Chinese steamers!)
in my experience, the only way to get it to taste like it does in the restaurants is to deep fry it. then it gets puffy and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. baking & pan frying can give you great taste, especially with a good marinade or sauce as others have suggested -- but you won't have the same texture you get when you eat out.
sometimes i compromise and half-deep fry it in about an inch of oil. i guess that probably doesn't make it any healthier, but at least my kitchen doesn't smoke up as much. also, if you chop the tofu up in smaller chunks before frying, you'll get more crispy surface area, maybe without having to use quite so much oil.
also, i think some asian grocery stores might sell already deep fried tofu -- i seem to remember seeing this in the freezer section. you might try that.
anyway -- when i was a tofu novice, i found the best *healthy* way to cook it at home was to marinate the heck out of it, then bake the rest of the heck out of it. often i would also freeze the tofu first as a whole block, then thaw, press, marinate, & bake. this changes the texture to be much firmer and spongier.
there's a pretty good recipe for coconut rice & tofu in the Best of 2003 Gourmet magazine (see link). you might try those seasonings, and try cooking the tofu various ways to see what you like best. you could deep fry it, then drain and add the other ingredients per the recipe.
I LOVE tofu triangles. Is that all that restaurants do, deep fry? It's hard to believe, but I'd be willing to try it. What temperature for the oil? What firmness of tofu? Would I press the water out of the tofu before frying (they seem so juicy on the inside - is that just oil that seeped in?)?
uh-oh. now you're asking for specifics and exposing the fact that i just typed all that stuff off the top of my head! (:
i'm not sure what you mean by tofu triangles -- is that a specific dish? i've usually seen tofu on the menu with some generic name like "bean curd in homestyle sauce", something you can get at almost any chinese take-out.
i have never worked in a restaurant so i'm not *absolutely* sure that all they do is deep-fry, but i think i'm right. bet you a spring roll and a turnip cake. anybody out there know for sure?
here are my preferences for cooking at home:
temperature -- unfortunately i don't measure this. i know i should. i'm sorry. i turn the stove to somewhere between medium and medium high. then once the oil heats up (5-10 minutes), i test it with a small chunk of something, tofu or veggie. it should sizzle nicely immediately, and be beautifully golden brown in 3 - 5 minutes. if it sounds dangerously loud when it hits the oil, it probably is, so i turn it down and remove the pan from heat a few minutes before retesting. if the test item sizzles flaccidly, or fails to brown soon enough, i crank it up a tad. maybe someone who deep-fries with a thermometer could help me out here? then proceed like any other deep-frying, be sure not to overfill the pan, etc.
tofu -- i use firm or extra-firm. when i'm frying it, i don't press water out. i drain, pat dry with paper towels, and maybe pat dry once more after chopping to avoid splatters when it hits the oil. that's it. but if you try it and think it's too squishy inside, you could try pressing, or even freezing & thawing, the tofu before frying it. both of those methods will get you a firmer curd.
I suspect you are talking about basic crisp-fried firm tofu. Part of the technique is pressing it to drain it of excess water, dredging it in chestnut flour or cornstarch, and deepfrying it.
Or you can save yourself the bother and go to an Asian market where you can get the pre-cooked version of the same in a nifty package. Saves a lot of unnecessary bother.
marinate marinate marinate. Deep frying also makes it taste better, but it's not necessary as long as you marinate it sufficiently (use very firm tofu and cut into chunks). My base is usually soy sauce, garlic, honey and you can add onions or fresh herbs or fish sauce or hot peppers . . . whatever you want. If you leave it overnight (I usually add water so the marinade covers the tofu) the tofu soaks it all up and is good eaten cold right out of the marinade bowl, or sauteed with veggies (I'm partial to green beans and mushrooms). You can use any liquid marinade you want, just let it sit for a good long while.
I find that I get the best texture with the least fat by cutting extra firm into squares, marinating it for 10 minutes or so, and then baking for 15-20 min. Then, I put them in a pan with either the same marinade or some other sauce and cook them a few minutes more. Not as good as deep-fried but much better for you.
you can get the same effect by blanching the tofu and draining it. 30 seconds is all it takes. if you don't have a wok with strainer, you could substitute a pasta pot and inside liner.
mako in sherman oaks makes a "mock steak" using tofu, smothered in mushrooms and onions.
it's been a while since i've made it , and i can't find the recipe i clipped out of the LA times years ago but...
assuming you've bought the typical 14-16 oz. block. you slice the block lengthwise into 3 slabs, drain, pat dry.
brown each slab in approx 1/4" of olive oil, both sides about 4-5 minutes. you may have to do this in shifts depending on the size of your pan.
using same pan, add sherry, about 1/2 cup per slab. unfortunately i can't remember if you reduce the liquid or ignite the sherry to burn off the alcohol.
add 1tbls butter per slab and 1tsp garlic powder to pan, heat until butter melts, then add soy sauce (1 tbls per slab) and reduce slightly, about 4 minutes.
return slab(s) to pan, brown on both sides about 4 minutes per side. the garlic powder blackens and simulates the char you'd get on an open grill.
top tofu with sauteed mushroom and onions. it's not bad for a vegetarian approximation.
All of these are good ideas. I love Chinese food, and generally find that Chinese recipes for tofu - there are zillions of them - are what I like the best.
The quickest way to understand how to cook tofu, is to learn what it is like plain. There is a classic dish which consists of plain tofu and "hundred-year-old" egg diced and tossed (gently) with light soy sauce, sesame oil, and maybe a dash of pepper.
Tofu is not bland, but has a nice mild taste of its own - which is the perfect foil for the pungence of the eggs.
Next, do the same recipe after simmering the tofu in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes. This provides a great example of "the same but different".
Use medium to firm tofu. You can usually get excellent fresh tofu at Korean grocers.
Once you understand what tofu is really like, the recipes will make more sense.
I have found a way to pan fry the tofu and get a nice exterior crispy skin and puffy interior, with out using as much fat as deep frying.
First, I use firm tofu and slice it into 1/2 to 1 inch slices. Fold a clean kitchen towel and lay the slices on it, cover with towel and put something on top to press it down a bit. This drains the tofu, do it for 15 minutes or more depending how firm you like it.
In a heavy, saute pan (needs to have a lid) heat some good oil, I like sesame or peanut, till very hot. I use about 3 tables spoons for a block of tofu. It needs to be enough so the tofu can slide around and not stick, but it doesnt have to come up the sides of the tofu. Add the tofu slices, shaking the pan so it doesnt stick. Put it on a med high heat and place the lid on it.
Let it cook 5-10 minutes. Just becareful not to have the heat so high it burns, but pretty hot. You should have a nice golden crust on the tofu. Remove the lid (be careful of steam droplets splattering!!) With a spatula turn the tofu, try not to lose any of the crispy skin stuck to the pan, and replace lid. Cook another 5 -10 minutes. Remove and place on paper towels to blot. You should have crispy skinned tofu with an interior that has steamed and puffed up a bit. At this point you can rinse the tofu in the Japanese style to remove more oil, or use as is. For Thai/Chinese stir fry dishes I would slice the tofu into strips. You can also use this fried tofu as a substitute for Chicken breasts in recipes, adding a sauce or gravy.
I saw a package of TOFU BURGER (at Wholesome Choice in Irvine, CA - its a green and white package) right next to the tofu fridge section. I mixed it all up with an egg (had to use my hands and it was cooooold-yuck) and then fried it up in patties, as directed. The burgers fell apart, but the flavor wasn't bad. Wouldn't do it again.
Sooo, the next time, I tried something different and was very pleased.
Slice the FIRM tofu block every 1" (like butter) in @1" X 2" X 5" slabs. Dredge the two widest sides in the TOFU BUGER spices. Spray PAM (or any non-stick spray) in the pan and fry up the slabs (heat through-don't burn the spices). Then I presented it in a square plate with spears of asparagus in the middle of the tofu planks. Add soy sauce after frying if you want. Or fry in some seame oil - experiment with YOUR flavors.
I wish I knew the manufacturer of TOFU BURGER for you - have to get a package to look at - didn't see on the Internet. The spices may vary with each manufacturer. Maybe Wholesome Choice can tell you (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)
That technique works also with other packages of spices such as Lipton onion soup mix (if you like it) and others.
Check out Deborah Madison's discussion of tofu (March 6, 2000) on foodandwine.com (URL posted below).
The laquered tofu recipe featured in Food and Wine is from her book, "This Can't Be Tofu".
I really like mapo dofu. Here's a recipe from Bittman. It's not terribly authentic, but the ingredients he uses are easy to find:
A more authentic recipe if you want it:
The actual prep is pretty easy, once you've rounded up the ingredients.