Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Joys of Tofu" or "Tofu: Yer Doin it Rong"

For a lot of people, when they think of vegetarianism, they think of tofu.  And that's really not such a good thing, because people just HATE tofu.  Really, I can't blame them, even though I LOVE tofu.  And that's because they've never had tofu done right.  Maybe they had a tofu dish at an Asian restaurant.  Now, while I'm willing to say that some Asian restaurants do tofu right, mostly they don't.  Mostly, they have pretty flavorless, soft, big blocks of tofu. 

The first thing you've got to know about tofu is that you've probably got to press it.  If you're buying extra firm tofu, chances are, it's going to require pressing.  It's easy to press!  My favorite way to do it is to wrap the tofu in a towel, put some really big books on top of it, and let that sucka' sit on your counter for a half hour to an hour.  You're probably asking yourself, why the f do I have to do this s?  I'll tell you why (and it's really obvious).  To get the moisture out!  It's just got to be done, no skipping.  It's easy, but if you're excessively lazy, you can buy a pricey tofu press:
If you're into totally extraneous kitchen gadgetry, you'll love this!

I'm not trying to insult your intelligence.  People who already know about pressing are bound to say, "C'mon, girl, I know how to press, give me a break!"  But you'd be surprised how many people are totally unaware of pressing, ESPECIALLY people who attempt to make a vegetarian dish for a guest before they realize that they don't know a darn thing about how to do tofu right.

Now, if you want to crisp tofu up for a stir fry of some sort, I recommend cutting your pressed tofu up, making an Ener-G Egg Replacer egg, coating your cut-up tofu with it, and then coating it with cornstarch.  Put it on the frying pan with a whole lot of oil on medium high heat, and then let it just sit for a good long time.  I mean it now!  Leave it be!  It takes a really long time to cook, and burned tofu is pretty much the opposite of unappealing.  That is, burned tofu is nice and crispy.  But it's cool, you don't have to burn it if you don't want to, it's your kitchen.  I'm just saying, leave it alone for a long-ass time.  Don't even check it before ten minutes, there's no point.  Resist!  Eventually, check it, and if it looks nice and brown on the bottom, flip 'em and do it again.  And that, my friends, is how you get terrifically crispy tofu, as seen here:
This is Broccoli Almond Sweet and Sour Tofu out of Laura Ulm's Vegan Yum Yum.  She uses the Ener-G Egg replacer/cornstarch method to incredible effect in this crowd-pleasing recipe.
Another good method (after pressing!) is to roast tofu in the oven in a nicely-oiled glass casserole pan.  Roasting always has the pleasant advantage of letting you do other things while it happily cooks away below, forgotten.  Different recipes tell you different times to cook tofu in the oven, but in my experience, it takes longer than they say.  Maybe I'm just a fan of the not-mushy, chewy kind of tofu, but I regularly increase my tofu-cooking time.  Please note: my oven is NOT too cold.  In fact, I usually reduce baking times for sweets.  So don't try to put this on my oven -- leave her alone!  She's a slave to my whims.  It takes even longer to roast tofu than to fry it, and you still have to take it out halfway and flip it, but it really is a nice method, as you can see here:
Rosemary-Roasted Tofu Cubes and Creole Hoppin'-Jean from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen.  Mmmm, I wish I was eating this right now, it's so good. 
The truth is, though, that there is one way I can think of to use extra-firm tofu without pressing it first, and it is a way not to be ignored, and that is by making scrambled tofu.

OK, I'll admit, scrambled tofu is not really like eggs.  But it is delicious (find a recipe, you have to put spices and whatever kinds of veggies you like), protein-rich (if you care about that kind of thing -- I don't), and deeply satisfying.  You should make it at least once, and because it doesn't require pressing, you can whip it up in the morning when you're totally hungover.  I know that when you're hungover, pressing is the straw that breaks the camel's back!  "It's bad enough that I have a headache, but now I've got to PRESS MY TOFU?!"
Scrambled tofu cooked with onions, a heck of a lot of mushrooms, and topped with avocado, made using the Vegan Brunch recipe.  A side of gourmet toast.  OK, just kidding, it's just regular toast with Earth Balance butter.
You got it?  Think you can stop badmouthing tofu now?  Don't get upset if your tofu sticks or is undercooked or whatever.  Just remember, folks: practice makes perfect!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the great tofu ideas. Love the kitchen gadget but I don't think I should be getting another gadget for my kitchen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hear ya'. Frankly, I barely have room for both a blender AND a crock pot.

    ReplyDelete

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