My son (almost 2) loved the tofu from my hot & sour soup at a Chinese restaurant yesterday. So, I was wondering, how to buy tofu (the right kind) and how to make it for him in other simple ways. It's always great to find something else he'll enjoy. He has no food allergies, so I'll try anything that's easy enough, no need to go too gourmet-ish for just him.
I would recommend getting the firm tofu - it is sold in blocks in the grocery store - the simplest way is just cut it in to cubes for easy finger pick up and stir fry with soy sauce or sweet and sour thinned out -
an interesting twist but a little more work - is consider that tofu will act like a sponge if you can squeeze some of the moisture out - place the brick of tofu into a bowl place a plate on top of it so the tofu compresses slightly - this will swueeze out some of the moisture - let it sit like this for about 15 minutes - when this done place it into you favorite marinade and it will absorb the flavors -
Freezing tofu will completely change the texture and make it extremely spongey. If your son likes the texture even after freezing, you can very easily squeeze even more moisture out of it by freezing, defrosting, then pressing the tofu. Then you can get tons of marinade flavor into the block. Just one more option for when you get bored of fresh tofu.
A friend of mine who is a conscientious vegetarian swears by "The Vegetarian Cookbook" by Lisa/Linda/Leah Leneman/Leenman (not sure of the author's name). I've leafed through one called "This Can't Be Tofu" by Somebody Madison (Dolley keeps popping into my head, but it can't be Dolley!) and thought it looked good.
Tofu comes in different consistencies. For hot and sour soup, and stir-fried dishes too, you'll want to get firm tofu. Supermarket versions come in sealed, waterproof packages. When you cut one open, do so over the sink. The tofu is easily cut into cubes or slices and doesn't disintegrate. The cookbooks will tell you which consitency is suitable for which dish.
My young boys love tofu baked or stir fried so it is crispy on the outside. I marinate in a simple asian themed marinade (soy sauce, ginger, rice vinegar and/or lime juice, garlic, sugar), and then either cut into "fries" and put under the broiler or cut into cubes and put into a skillet. We put the cubes into rice noodles.
I have also slipped into rice, or even tacos (with a different or no marinade). So versitile.
My two year old also loves tofu. He definitely prefers the firm and extra firm over the silken. Trader Joes has a really good extra firm tofu that they sell for $1 - $1.50.
I pretty much use it just like chicken. Last night I made a chili that was 75% ground beef (the very low fat kind) and 25% tofu. I cubed the tofu really small and added it to the chili for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
I bake tofu with pretty much any sauce; tomato, tomatillo, pad thai. Throw in their favorite vege (peas, broccoli, zuchini) and you have a simple healthy meal.
Exactly, but you left out poking holes in the tofu with a chopstick before drizzling the soy sauce.
pamd, what about miso shiru? If your son liked the hot & sour, he would probably like the tofu in a miso soup. And thanks for the idea. I'll prepare some for our three year old and see if she likes it.
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with all the posts above about using firm tofu in soup. Most of the tofu used in Chinese restaurants for soup are the silken variety, or soft tofu. This tofu looks pretty and has a nicer taste, closer to custard. The firm tofu will have more of a spongey taste that I don't think a kid would like, unless it was fried.
So I would suggest getting silken tofu (or the label may say soft) and then warm up some chicken broth or water with a spoonful of miso paste. Then add the tofu last. (You can also add other ingredients like mushrooms or carrots for more taste and something else for him to munch on.) The tofu doesn't need to cook long. This will be a simple, healthy soup for your child and he'll get the same texture if tofu as he got in the hot and sour soup.
Singleguychef is right, the stuff you get in soup from a chinese restaurant is silken tofu, which is not the same texture as the big blocks you get in the refrigerated case. Silken tofu (at least the stuff I've seen) is packed in a foil-lined box and stored at room temperature in the grocery store.
Silken tofu is great in a lot of things. It makes a good base for caesar salad dressing, and when blended with good chocolate will make a great chocolate cream pie.
I've eaten in NYC restaurants as well and I do find that it's a mix. Most use silken but there are a few who use firm. You'll know its the firm because it keeps its cube shape better. The silken will break as you spoon it, but taste lighter. I don't think it's regional as much as it is whether a restaurant is willing to buy silken or go for the regular firm, which they can then use for soup or other dishes.
I also have a 2 year old and she likes tofu too (and most everything else too!). My husband, on the other hand, hates tofu.
I have a very simple recipe for Mapo Tofu that calls for ground pork or turkey (I use ground chicken) and tofu. You could use a combination or certainly just use firm tofu. You can also adjust the spice level.
If you'd like it, I will post it.
It is from a cookbook called "The Six O'Clock Scramble":
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped ginger
6 scallions, green parts only, chopped
4 Tbsp. Hoisin Sauce
1 pound ground pork OR turkey OR chicken
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
8-10 large iceberg lettuce leaves
Stir cornstarch into broth and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, and half of the scallions and stir-fry them for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add hoisin sauce and meat. Stir-fry mixture until meat is almost cooked through, 3-5 minutes.
Add soy sauce, broth and cornstarch mixture, and bring to low boil. Add tofu and remaining scallions. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Wrap some of the mixture into each lettuce leaf and serve.
A few of my own notes:
I just serve it over rice and don't bother with the lettuce.
In my post above, I mentioned adjusting the spice level. I forgot that the original recipe doesn't even call for anything spicy, but I added some crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
My husband (the picky eater in the family), doesn't love the ground meat, so I have also made this with a combination of tofu and chicken tenders and using that kind of chicken works out fine too.
Let me know if you make it and (hopefully) enjoy it!
Valerie/Pamd, I make a quick and easy Mapo Tofu dish that's perfect comfort food. I looked at the recipe above and I have to say that the 2 cups broth seems a bit much. Valerie, did you really use all 2 cups? I would suggest adding a little at a time until you get the amount of sauce you like. 2 cups sounds like soup to me. In my recipe, I actually just add maybe 3/4 of a cup with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (the cornstarch creates the slurry that thickens the Mapo Tofu as you add the broth). Also, I always find that cornstarch thickens quickly when the stovetop is on high. The simmer to a boil technique takes too long to really gauge whether you've added enough cornstarch. Just my two cents having made Mapo Tofu most of my life. (By the way, I make a variation of the Mapo Tofu with Korean kim chee which is really a different kick and my friends like the new taste flavor. Probably not the best idea for your child but if you ever want to make an "adult version" then you might try that.)
Nance, I posted my kim chee/mapo tofu recipe above in reply to Valerie. Another easy tip about mapo tofu is that I use those jar garlic black bean sauce from Lim Kum Kee (brand). To me, that adds all the depth of flavors for mapo tofu.
And like all stir-fries, having a high heat to create the sizzle is important. But that means you have to work fast, so have all your ingredients ready because it's pretty much one after the other thant you're adding things into your wok. (But that also means this is fast to make!) :)
There's a ton of great tofu recipes out there. But one word of advice: get your tofu at an Asian food store. Most towns have one, and I've found the tofu at Asian stores to be vastly superior than that available at most grocery stores.
Agedashi (use firm tofu)
Mapo Tofu (use silken tofu)
I like chopped soft tofu in soups, I also like mapo tofu; but lately I have discovered how delicious baked tofu is. Here's my fav. baked tofu recipe in case it's useful:
1 lb firm tofu
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry or rice wine (I use mirin)
1 tablespoon cider or rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons onion, finely minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon chili paste (or to taste)
Press the tofu: Put between two plates and add a weight to the top (about 4 lbs). (The sides of the tofu should bulge but not split). Let sit for about 30 mins & pour water off. (This firms it up and lets it absorb flavors better.)
Combine the remaining ingredients. (You can also put those ingredients in the food processor rather than grating/mincing.) Cut the tofu into triangles or any other shape (you may cut horizontally, then in half, and those halves into triangles). Put the tofu in a single layer in a baking dish & pour the marinade over. Bake at 375F approx 45 mins., turning occasionally, until browned & the marinade is mostly evaporated.
Tofu has always been a favorite of my sons (3 and 6). In fact, for my older son's recent birthday party, he asked me to serve tofu. I had to convince him that pizza would be more popular. An easy, kid-friendly, and nutritious way to make it is to cut medium or firm tofu into cubes, braise with some bottled teriyaki sauce, and stir in an egg or two at the end to bring it together (also good with ground pork or chicken added). It's also good broiled or pan fried with miso sauce on top. Firm tofu dipped in flour, egg, and panko and fried as "cutlets" and served with tonkatsu sauce is tasty. It's also good in miso soup.
If you buy the firm one, you can use it so many ways! Pretty much I guess just remember that tofu picks up the flavours surrounding it generally speaking, so you can mix it into a dish they really love already or season similarly to a well-loved favourite and it should work...but definetely pick up the FIRM one....or even Extra Firm you'll find it usually in the refrigerated veggie section of the grocery or in chinese grocery stores....good luck!
Sunset has a great recipe for a cold Chinese salad composed of baked tofu strips marinated in some shoyu and sesame oil, combined with shredded cucumber and carrot plus bean sprouts, and topped with crushed peanuts. Very good! And a meal in itself.
And second the ma po tofu, although the recipe I like (on epicurious.com) is quite spicy hot, so perhaps not appropriate for the small ones.
For hot & sour soup, I used to painstakingly julienne the firm tofu by hand. Then I had an attack of brains and tried the trusty old box grater. Perfect. Easy, quick, and uniform pieces. Any little crumbs, no problem, into the soup with you.