Cooking Tofu: The Do’s and Dont’s
By Jenny Pham
Tofu, it’s such a mysterious product to most people. Some people don’t even bother trying it due to the uncertainty of what it’s made of. This jello-like milky substance that doesn’t smell like anything but bland – how do people possibly eat this stuff? Turns out, tofu is highly versatile in that it comes in various stages of firmness. You can scramble it, fry it, dress it up, shower it with spice, make a sauce, or even bake it – the possibilities seem endless.
Tofu is basically soy milk that is coagulated and pressed firmly together. It could range from silken (which has a cheesecake/greek yogurt consistency), soft (consistency similar to scrambled eggs), firm, and extra firm (the meatiest consistency). The consistency you get all depends on what you want to prepare. Tofu can be incorporated into sweet dishes or savory dishes, the latter being a more common option.
Ok, so you might be warming up to the idea of trying tofu. But how do you prepare it? We’re here to unveil the secrets behind successfully preparing tofu because with something packed with so much vitamins and serves as a low-calorie meat substitute, you wouldn’t want to miss out on it.
- Buy the right tofu texture: If you’re looking to fry tofu for your pad thai dinner, get the extra firm tofu, it’ll hold up better in the oil. Alternatively, if you were to fry soft tofu, it will not hold it’s shape as well and you’ll be left with mush. But if you’re looking to make a tofu cream cheese (yes, this is a thing and it’s much healthier than regular cream cheese) or a tofu scramble to replace your eggs, then go with the silken or soft tofu.
- Drain the water from the tofu: Tofu is packaged emerged in water to hold its shape and texture. When you open the package, remove the block of tofu from the water but also press the water that is absorbed in the tofu. Tofu is like a sponge and in order to get the tofu as dry as possible, you need to apply a bit of pressure to squeeze out the water. Not too much pressure though, or else the tofu will crumble. Simply, sandwich the block of tofu between two paper towels and place a plate over it. Gently apply pressure until you feel the tofu is dry enough to cook.
- Use a non-stick pan – the last thing you want is for the majority of your food to be stuck on the bottom of your pan. Use a non-stick pan to keep with the healthy option of omitting oil while having your food on your plate rather than your pan.
- Cut it into large chunks – tofu is bland to begin with and if you leave them in big chunks, you will be left with bland pieces of condensed soy milk that has only a touch of flavor. Trust us, this is not ideal.
- Use oil when you season/marinade – with so much water content inside of tofu, adding oil is not the best idea. These two substances do not meld together, ever, so if you add oil the tofu will probably not absorb the seasoning/marinade that you are dousing your tofu in.
- Bread it – tofu can get a light crisp outer layer just by being coated in a cornstarch layer before frying – no need to bread like you would with fried chicken.