Sigh, yes Tofu, that wobbly white thing that unfortunately too often tastes very bland and why the hell is it so hard to get it crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside?! Because people don’t cook it properly.
Why some people don’t like Tofu?
1st mistake. They choose the wrong kind of Tofu. So, choose the right Tofu!
The type of Tofu depends on how much water has been pressed out from it, so the soft one would have a high water content, while the Tofu sheets a very low one.
Silken Tofu: This kind of Tofu is a very soft one, which is why it’s great for dressings (just blend it together with some soy sauce, rapeseed oil, rice vinegar and spices and your salad topping is ready), as an addition to Miso soup, as a raw snack with some avocado or in dishes like Mapo Tofu, where it doesn’t really matter if it breaks into crumbles a bit. Don’t try to pan-fry or deep-fry this one, as it will just result in a mess and huge disappointment. You could even make a vegan Mayonnaise from it or blend it into smoothies. You could even (can’t believe I’m saying this), replace Mascarpone or Ricotta in pasta dishes with it.
Soft Tofu: Firmer than silken Tofu, but not as firm as firm Tofu. Easy to cut, holding its shape, but only to a certain point.This one is the perfect partner, if you want that crunchy crust and a softer inside for stir fries, or – my personal favourite – fried in bigger pieces to fill sandwiches with. I think this is my personal favourite, because it is so versatile and is great for soaking up any kind of sauce, making that squishiness even more perfect.
Firm Tofu (the most common one): When you don’t have time to visit an Asian supermarket but have to rely on your local one, the most common kind of Tofu you’ll find is this one. It’s a great meat substitute, can be grilled, and holds its shape best. It’s more robust for some kinds of stir fries or braised dishes and will be easiest to handle. Firm Tofu can also not only substitute meat but also makes a great addition to dishes that contain meat just as you’d add Halloumi or let’s say Feta to add some chew and nuttiness to it.
Tofu Sheets: Tofu sheets are very firm, very thin pressed sheets made from tofu. They have a wrinkly structure and are often sold seasoned to have as a snack. I first ate them in a Sichuan cucumber salad in Brussels, where they were cut into slices and mixed into the salad. Tofu sheets are amazing for salads, soups, stir fries. I don’t use it often, but it’s great to know that it exists.
There are many more kinds, but these are the most important. Now, whenever a recipe will just call for “a slice of Tofu”, you’ll know which one to use!
2nd mistake. They don’t know how to season it – don’t be stingy with your spices and condiments!
Tofu is versatile in that sense too, that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own but therefore can be seasoned with anything you want really and made into whatever you want.
Don’t be afraid to overseason Tofu. Add garlic, chili, lemon grass, coriander, fish sauce, marinate it for a day, serve it with a spicy dip, go wild! Of course you should keep in mind that silken Tofu has a more delicate taste than soft or firm Tofu and there you might not want to drench it in a super thick sauce that overtakes it completely. But maybe here a soy and lime dressing and spring onion, instead of garlic might work well.
3rd mistake. People expect too much of Tofu. Don’t force Tofu into something it doesn’t want to be.
Tofu is versatile, yes, but do you really need to make it a Pizza topping? Could be great, but could also turn out shit if just used to substitute Mozzarella.
I just want to say that Tofu can’t be your allround solution for substituting meat or dairy products. Some might disagree, but in my opinion you’ll sacrifice a lot of taste in some cases. If you’re fine with that, well then there’s no issue. Go ahead with that!
A simple thing, before using Tofu as a substitute, is to first think about whether the consistency will fit the purpose, whether the taste will be intense enough and whether you might need some extra fat or salt when using it.
Enough blabbing. Here comes a super easy recipe for crunchy Tofu, that get’s pan fried and can be eaten as a simple snack. You can also fry it in a larger piece and add it to a sandwich with sliced fresh carrots, cucumber, chopped spring onion, some coriander leaves, black sesame and maybe some Mayonnaise mixed with a hot sauce like sriracha. Add some fried crispy shallots for that crunch and yes you’ve guessed right, it will be amazing with crispy chili oil, too.
- 1 pack soft Tofu (not silken, not firm, trust me)
- Enough corn flour/ corn starch to cover the Tofu
- Sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
- 40ml light soy sauce
- 15ml Chinkiang vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- chili flakes, chili powder or chili oil to taste
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 tsp sesame seeds (black ideally, but light work as well)
Cut the Tofu into rectangles that are more or less 1.5cm high and 3cm long as well as wide. Fill some corn flour into a bowl, put the Tofu inside and cover from all sides. Shake off all excess flour.
Fill oil into a pan, about 1-2cm up the sides. Yes that much. You want to really deep fry the Tofu. Heat up until the oil reaches 190C or, when you hold in a wooden spoon, bubbles will form around it. PLEASE BE CAREFUL THIS IS F****ING HOT SO DON’T DO CLOSE TO CHILDREN, ANIMALS, PEOPLE WHO SNEAK INTO THE KITCHEN TO CHECK OUT WHAT YOU’RE COOKING.
Fry until nicely browned from all sides, make sure to turn carefully while frying. Around 3 minutes. Fish out with a heat proof spatula and place on a plate covered with paper towel to soak up all excess oil. Let cool slightly as it will be super hot inside.
Mix together soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and chili until sugar is dissolved. Add spring onions and sesame seeds.
Serve everything together, dipping the warm Tofu into the sauce.