The Secret to Good Tofu
As promised! People are more familiar with it now, but years ago, people were pretty “tofu-stupid” when it came to preparing the stuff and actually succeeding at making it taste good. When I first became vegetarian many years ago, I thought tofu was the worst thing in the world (and as far as my culinary world/now meat deprived palate was concerned, it really was). I didn’t know what to do with it, the texture in any grade was repulsive and the flavor was never quite right. Until suddenly, everything changed (or not so suddenly, but I’ll talk about that later).
I was not so fortunate to be let in on the secret early on, so like many other things - this tofu trick came about as a happy accident for me. I’d gone grocery shopping and had lots of stuff left over that I wasn’t going to be able to get rid of in time before taking off on a big trip to Texas I’d promised my adventuring grandmother that I’d join her on. I wasn’t sure of the shelf life for tofu, so I just tossed my two packages right into the freezer along with everything else.
When I got back from Texas (which is kind of a vegetarian’s nightmare depending on where you are), I defrosted the stuff and was mildly concerned because not only had I never froze it before… but I noticed after I took it out of the freezer that there was a little note on the bottom of the label that read “Do Not Freeze.” - OH WELL. I defrosted my tofu in the microwave (which I actually don’t recommend at this point in my culinary life), but that’s besides the point. I patted down the tofu with a few paper towels and I noticed something that I thought was really incredible - the texture of the tofu had changed entirely! It was no longer this gigantic sort of weird blob of a thing, it now seemed to have a sort of spongy-ness to it. I was very skeptical, but decided to go ahead and prepare the tofu like I normally would, chopping it into cubes, pouring a few spices over it with garlic and soy sauce… then I pan fried it. It was the best tofu I’d ever had. I couldn’t believe it.
Remember that spongy-like texture I referred to a bit ago? I discovered that after the texture had changed from the freezing and thawing method, the tofu became undeniably better at absorbing flavors - WHICH IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO DO! In order for tofu to taste good, you absolutely need it to be able to do this (absorb the flavors of whatever you’re cooking it in/with).
I’m not a scientist. Don’t ask me how this happens. It’s magic and I’ve been preparing my tofu the same way every since.
A few important things to remember:
1. The tofu has to freeze at least overnight
2. It has to thaw out all day or overnight (counter top or in the fridge)
3. After it thaws, squeeze out every drop of liquid that you can (this gets it ready to absorb the other liquid/flavors that you actually want it to taste like).
4. YOU CANNOT DO THIS ON A WHIM. Real bummer. But you actually have to prepare for this! Obviously, considering the previous steps.
5. Have fun man. Experiment with marinades. Marinate your tofu for 20 minutes or overnight - see what you like best. I’ll give away my staple marinade here because I love you all so much (it gets the results that you see in the pictures above and it’ll make your meat-lovin’ friends happy).
- 5 T rice vinegar
- 4 T of braggs liquid aminos
- 1 T of tamarind sauce
- 1t smoked paprika
- 1 1/2t sesame oil
- 1t honey
- 3/4t chili paste
- 1 1/2t chopped garlic
- 1T olive oil
- 1 pound of extra firm tofu
- sesame seeds *sprinkle to your hearts desire*
Enjoy!!!!! If you try this out for the first time, come back and let me know what you thought ;-)