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Fried Tofu

I tried vegan for 14 days in April and never felt better. I don't eat meat but love cheese and seafood. Going vegan is truly a lifestyle which I doubt I can nor want to commit. Having said that, I want to cut out cheese soon and eat more tofu. I do LOVE tofu mostly for breakfast with a scramble melange. I also LOVE fried tofu but it spatters so much I dread cooking due to the clean up. I press it dry with a towel, season well and fry on each side sufficiently. Is there another way to prepare to avoid the oil spatter?

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  1. Are you using firm tofu? Often, you will see three kinds of tofu for sale: soft, regular and firm. The firm is lower in water content, and is more suited for frying. I also slice the tofu in advance, spread it out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and salt it. The salt draws additional water out. This is just an hour before, but it won't hurt to let it sit longer. When I fry it, I am also not deep-frying it, but sauteing it. I dredge the slices in a little cornstarch or flour but no eggs. I am careful not to crowd the pan since this lowers the temperature, and I am not using that much oil.

    My guess is that when you season it, you are using salt and pepper. The pepper would dry the surface of the tofu, which is good, but the salt is probably drawing some of the liquid into the pan. Either salt it an hour before or salt it immediately after pan-frying it.

    By the way, another way to draw the moisture out of the tofu is to microwave it first. I've done this if I didn't have any firm tofu on hand.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dovid

      Thanks Dovid. I use firm, let it sit 5 minutes, saute and definitely am crowding the pan. That's a good tip. I use salt and sometimes some other spices. I don't own a microwave.

      1. re: Dovid

        I press my tofu on a cookie sheet. Blot the brick dry, slice into cutlets or strips. Arrange on a cookie sheet lined with a clean dish towel. Place another towel on top of the tofu and finish with another cookie sheet. Place some heavy cans and let it sit. The longer the better.

        Definitely do not crowd the pan, or it'll steam and get soggy.

        Im going to try salting tofu next time I prepare it. Does the salt make the tofu salty? Should I cut out some salt from the recipe I'm using?

      2. I usually press the entire block before cutting by wrapping in a towel and weighting it with a big book or a heavy pot, or something that won't break the curd...but will expel the moisture. The less moisture available, the less popping...

        1. Do you have a spatter guard? Those things are great, and you can buy them just about anywhere.

          1. You may to experiment with deep frying. With good tofu, a saucepan, and a stem thermometer you can get restaurant quality fried tofu.

            I use very firm tofu and don't experience much spattering. I think steep sides on the pan help. It does make the place smell like cooking oil though.

            1. Freezing and defrosting firm or extra firm tofu gives it a more substantial texture.

              After the tofu defrosts try to gently squeeze excess water out of the tofu and slice into thee sheets and place in a plate layered with paper towels, cover with more paper towels and place an inverted plate on top then place a filled tea kettle or something else heavy over the top and let sit for 30 minutes.

              I will cut into 1/2 inch squares and place in a mixing bowl to marinade with whatever sauce and seasonings. I like soy, ginger, lime, garlic etc.

              Tofu can then be fried, added to a stir fry or roasted in the oven.

              1. Is it possible for you to buy pre-fried tofu? I can get a variety of these at my local Asian supermarket.

                1. Dredge in cornstarch after drying and before frying. I learned it from Ottolenghi's Plenty. The black pepper tofu recipe is amazing! That is how they prepare the tofu for frying.

                  1. Purchase the firmest tofu you can find, slice it into 1/3" thick slabs, and place it on a kitchen towel on a cookie sheet. Place another layer of towel on top and then another cookie sheet. Weigh it down with as many large heavy books as you can find for 30 minutes. Repeat if you want it super dry. This is probably the only modern use for Encyclopedia Britannica--- I usually have a 3' stack or more. Note that this technique will squash silken tofu, so it must be the firm variety.

                    To fry the tofu cut into the size you would want to eat and dip in cornstarch, flour, whatever. If you want a well flavored tofu, fry the bottoms, flip over, and pierce the crust with a fork a few times as the other side fries. When everything has a golden crust, flip over again and pour in an amount of flavored liquid that you can expect to evaporate in a few minutes. It'll soak into the crust and the punctured holes. Continue to cook until dry again and the liquid has fully seeped in.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      thanks HP, what kind of "flavored liquid"?

                      1. re: phelana

                        A variation of this technique in Wei Chuan's Chinese Cuisine (for 3 ~1x3x3 cakes of tofu) uses 1 Tbs, green onion, 1 Tbs. ginger, 1 tsp. sherry, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and 1/2 cup stock. They suggest you simmer it slowly to let the flavors absorb. They also dip in flour and beaten egg before frying, but cornstarch by itself works fine.

                        That amount of stock is probably a good rule of thumb, but you can play with how you flavor it. I've mixed in a small amount of five spiced powder instead of using the green onion and ginger. I've also spiked the liquid with sweet chile sauce to good effect.

                    2. Well, I had a great dinner with BBQ'd tofu. I dried it well, flattened the heck out of it, marinated it in a BBQ sauce and grilled it..amazing...

                      1. I actually prefer not to use a super firm tofu. You will get a nicer inside texture, and more contrast with the outside, if you deep-fry medium or softer tofu. Drying it well, and (gently, in the case of softer tofu) press for a little, and you should be fine.

                        Depending on what you're using it for, you can also dredge it in some potato starch or rice flour for a different texture.

                        You can also buy pre deep-fried tofu from Asian markets. Fried at home is always better, but the pre-fried ones can be good, depending on the maker, and it's a good shortcut when you just need a little bit of it and don't want to deal with the extra oil / spatter.

                        1. Just an FYI, Trader Joe's firm high protein tofu is HORRIBLE..dry and dry can be. YUCK

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: phelana

                            respectfully disagree with phelana on the TJ high protein tofu.
                            i use it regularly to make tofu fajitas.

                          2. not exactly what you're looking for, but I HIGHLY recommend dry frying tofu:


                            you get crispy tofu that's ready to soak up a marinade, without any oil, splatter, or added fat from frying.

                            1. I recently perfected (IMHO) fried tofu and here's how I do it. These instructions are largely but not entirely taken from Herbivoracious: http://herbivoracious.com/2012/05/how....

                              1. Don't bother pressing. Just buy firm or extra firm tofu.
                              2. Don't bother marinating. Just put a sauce on later.
                              3. Press dry with a couple of clean kitchen towels AFTER you cut.
                              4. Do the soaking in salted water trick described by Herbivoracious OR just dredge in a little cornstarch. Both are ways to get a good crust but the cornstarch is faster b/c you don't have to wait for water to boil or tofu to soak.
                              5. Use a very hot pan (consequently an oil with a high smoking point...veg oil is great).
                              6. Put it in the pan and don't touch for a few minutes. These will allow the crust to toughen a bit, which is what you want.
                              7. Watch carefully and turn each piece as needed.
                              8. If you have dried your tofu well you shouldn't have too bad a problem with splatter. However, there are always a few painful splashes. To minimize these, wrap a dish towel around your arm, or use a hot pad if you have a nimble one.

                              I make this at least once a week to serve with cold noodle salad or brown rice stir fry. It's great with sauces, homemade or bottled. And I've found that even hardcore meat eaters like tofu when served this way.

                              Sorry for the excessively long post. Good luck!