say the word tofu to any non-vegan (and, for that matter, some vegans) and you’ll be met with a resounding ‘ewwwwww!’ and be regaled with stories of traumatic encounters with bean curd. well, my friends, I am here to change all of that.
the key to loving tofu is knowing how to prepare and cook it, and it’s much easier than you’d think! by the end of this post, you should be able to turn our controversial little friend into a delicious and versatile protein for every occasion.
step one: pick the right tofu
tofu comes in five main forms: extra firm, firm, medium, soft and silken. extra firm-medium are best for savoury dishes, whereas the softer forms are great for making creamy, silky desserts. making sure you pick the right texture is key to getting a delicious tofu-based meal.
step two: press, press, press!
note: this step does not apply to soft or silken tofu! if you try to press them, you’ll just end up with a sloppy puree which feels very bad to touch. trust me. don’t try it.
when making a savoury tofu dish, you gotta get the water out. there are many hacks out there for quickly sapping the water out, but try them at your own risk – I find that these hacks tend to either start the cooking process early or dry the tofu out beyond repair. to get it right, you’ve got to put the time in.
start by wrapping your tofu in several teatowels (you can use kitchen roll, but we’re trying to be low-impact and this is super wasteful!) and placing on a wide, shallow plate. pro-tip: I find that cutting the tofu into pieces the size I want for my recipe does help speed this process up.
now, we press. pile as many heavy books and chopping boards as you can onto that swaddled-up baby tofu and leave them there for at least an hour, up to 24 hours. if I’m using the tofu in a meal that night, I use this time to prep and cook as much of the rest of my meal as possible so I’m ready to go once my curd is well-pressed.
step three: spice up your life
tofu is very, very bland. it’s a fact that cannot be avoided, no matter how many tofu-enthusiasts try to tell you otherwise. however, this makes it a wonderful medium for absorbing flavours of whatever you cook it in!
try marinading it overnight in soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce, or tossing in salt and pepper to recreate that delicious chinese takeaway treat. brushing with a mixture of coconut oil, garam masala, ground cumin and ground coriander creates a perfect addition to a vegetable curry. chicken seasoning and garlic powder makes a lovely addition to a simple pasta sauce. have a play around! experimentation is key to a fun cooking experience.
step four: use the appropriate cooking method
now you have your pressed, seasoned tofu we need to get cooking. baking, grilling or frying will all give a different texture and finish to your dish. frying is best for battered or floured tofu, whereas baking is better for a wet marinade. grilling is key for a perfect tofu bacon, and for reheating leftover chinese takeaway…
again, experimenting is required here. everyone prefers their tofu slightly differently and will prefer one cooking method over another, and different dishes call for different finished textures. for beginners, I always recommend cooking your tofu similarly to how you would treat an animal-based protein in the same dish, and making adjustments each time you prepare that meal.
step five: brag about your magical ability to make ‘gross’ tofu delicious to all your friends!
special shout outs:
chickpea tofu, which is soy free and makes perfect scrambled ‘eggs’!
tofu puffs, a well kept secret found in asian supermarkets which deep fry into the most delightful poofy balls of bean curd.
baked tofu cheesecake, this one topped with fresh rhubarb is a personal favourite.
catch you next time,