I've never cooked with tofu.
Does anyone know of a good book I can check out that can get me started with tofu?
What brand and type do I buy? How do I cook it?
I'm pretty good in the kitchen and love to eat just about everything. I've had bean curd salads at Asian restaurants but admit to being a little intimidated preparing tofu at home.
Any tips would be much appreciated.
Tofu is nothing to be intimidated by. It's easy and delicious stuff - I've found that brands don't tend to matter as much as consistency (firm, silken, etc). Silken tofu can be made into dessert relatively quickly. Warmed and served with a sugar ginger sauce is a delicious and simple way. I like to buy extra firm tofu (though you can use firm), press it to rid it of extra water, add a splash of soy for flavour and bake/pan fry. I suppose you can use it in place of meat in certain recipes, though that's never been something I've tried myself.
Perhaps if you can tell us what types of cuisines you like, people can better point you to books/recipes/methods?
Asian Cookbooks are more likely to give good recipes than health-food books.
I especially like Chinese recipes with tofu. All are good, some are as simple as "tossing" raw tofu with preserved eggs, soy sauce and sesame oil.
Diced tofu in soup can't miss.
I am partial to firm tofu, because I am kind-of clumsy. It is easy to slice and stir fry.
re: Big Bunny
Tofu doesn't really need to be cooked, but simmering it in a sauce gives it flavor, as well as warming it through.
Some traditional dishes call for tofu "pillows" to be deep fried, which gives it a nice crust. Then the pillows are sliced in two before stir frying to allow flavor to penetrate the softer center.
The Chinese classic tofu dish is Ma Po Dao Fu. There are lots of recipes on-line, and in almost any Chinese cookbook. It is a Sichuan dish, but usually available in Cantonese restaurants.
In her Sichuan cookbook, Fuchsia Dunlop gives a recipe for Yu Hsiang Dao Fu which is delicious.
If you live near an Asian market they will have the seasoning mix for ma-po tofu. This is a spicy Sichuan dish that also contains minced pork. Just follow the direction on the box. It is a dry product and comes in a relatively flat box maybe 5 x 6 inches. Some large supermarkets have it also. It you enjoy it, then venture onto the web where there are lots of recipes for it from scratch.
A hint also on storage of tofu after the package is open. Just keep it in a tupperware container covered with water, and change water every day or two. Mine is always in a clear container, and my son says it looks like giant erasers floating around.
I agree with the firm or extra-firm recommendation. My personal favorite is Nigari tofu, which is made with magnesium and is REALLY firm. Be sure to drain it well - surround with towels or paper towels and put a heavy weight on top, like a 28oz can on top of a plate.
I usually marinate it and bake it. Typical marinade is soy sauce, garlic, ginger, lime juice, miso paste, and chili-garilc paste, and enough water to cover. Then drain and bake at 375F for about 20 minutes. If you want a sauce, just reduce the marinade.
You can add this to a salad or serve over rice.
I had a Japanese roomate in college who taught me a great way to fry tofu.
Place on a board and place a plate and weight on top. Leave for 15 minutes until water drains out. Make sure you use Extra Firm Tofu to begin with.
Slice the tofu and dredge the pieces in corn starch. Yes corn starch.
This will create a very delicate crust. Heat a few Tbsp of oil in skillet. Make sure the oil is very hot before putting the tofu in -- or else the tofu will absorb the oil if not hot enough.
Fry on both sides in sesame oil or canola oil until golden brown.
Place on paper towels after frying to remove excess oil.
Splash a few drops of soy sauce or tamari on the hot tofu and serve.
It is very light and delicious.
re: Jill Brazil
Funny story... I like my tofu the same way... I was at my bf's, and used what I thought was whole wheat flour... it oddly didn't crisp up, but rather caramelized... the tofu tasted sweet... I found out later that it was hot chocoloate mix.....pan fried chocolate tofu....ewwwww...
1. Really simple: cut firm tofu into cubes, poke some holes in the tofu, sprinkle on some soy sauce and bonito flakes, toasted and ground rice, or slightly toasted sesame seeds
2. Easy and common: add cubes to Asian soups, especially miso shiru
3. Simple Japanese: simmer bite size cubes in soy sauce, mirin or bit of white wine and touch of honey, grated ginger--along with some green onion segments (maybe an inch long)
4. Very common: use tofu that has been pressed under a plate and weight and cut into bite size cubes as ingredient in stir frys, adding the more fragile tofu near the end.
I just buy the brand at my grocery store (Nasoya) - I actually like it better than the tofu I have bought from an Asian grocery store. Here are a couple tofu recipes that we love:
Panfried Tofu on Sesame Watercress
I just substitute spinach for watercress. I pan fry strips of tofu until they are very crispy, in just a little bit of oil
I just sub tofu for chicken - we like it better this way actually. The marinated tofu is delicious and the texture is great for fajitas.
I love eating it hiyayakko style in the summer or warmer months as a lunch, snack, or side dish. I like topping it with some soy sauce, shiso, grated daikon and cucumber, ponzu, etc. Or I like it pan fried in some oil and topped with soy sauce, korean chile flakes, sliced green onion, and some sesame seeds.
the great thing about tofu, is that you can use it in pretty much anything (however I think it's nasty when applied in western dishes - I don't know why)
I love the Moosewood recipe for Szechuan Tofu and Eggplant, served over millet in my case. Sooo good, I have it at least 1-2x/mo. I also do a broccoli-tofu stirfry (on cooking light website) with a really addictive sauce, involving oyster sauce and rice wine vinegar among other things.
I saw pressing mentioned, and I *definitely* agree. The tofu holds together much better, and I think it soaks up more flavor too. Start with firm/extra-firm, place it between paper towels and bread boards, and weigh down with cans 20-30 min.
You can freeze tofu, too. It gets sort of chewy when you defrost it, but I actually like that for stirfrying.
Silken tofu is great in miso soup. My family likes it rinsed and topped with soy sauce, chili oil and minced green onions. But that's probably best reserved for incredibly fresh silken tofu.
Firm tofu is more fun to work with. Get the firmest kind of tofu you can find, take it out of its packet, place it between two cutting boards and put weights on the top to drain it of water. After a few hours, pat it dry, cut into blocks, fry it in oil until a crispy golden crust forms. You can either drain it and eat it that way, or go ahead and use it in a stirfry or coat it in some sauce. Search up Asian cuisine for ideas, especially Malaysian or Indonesian food, they have quite alot of yummy recipes for firm tofu.
I got some medium really good fresh tofu the other day and put it in chicken broth that was seasoned with about a tablespoon of shredded ginger, two finely chopped shallots, about a cup of kimchi, and two sliced scallions. I also added some Korean clear sweet-potato noodles. Very good soup.