What is tofu?
Tofu is made from soya bean curd that has been pressed into a block, similar to the way cheese is made. Before you ask, soya beans are a legume native to East Asia and are used to make the soya products you’re already familiar with, such as soya sauce and soya milk. Tofu can be found in varying forms relating to its texture, specifically silken, soft, firm, extra firm, etc. The two most commonly used are firm and silken or soft.
How to cook tofu?
Generally, the biggest confusion comes around cooking firm tofu. If you’re experimenting with silken or soft tofu, they’re extremely delicate, so the less you handle them, the better. They’re best suited to quick marinades and serving as is, in either soup or as a garnish. If you’re unsure what to look for, firm tofu tends to be the most forgiving and versatile. To cook firm tofu, start by removing as much liquid from it as possible. Open the packet and place it over a colander to allow all the brine to drain out, then place it between two sheets of paper towel and press down evenly and firmly to remove any further excess liquid. Now, you’re ready to cook.And depending on your desired result, you’ve got a few options.
Contrary to popular belief, crispy tofu is by far the easiest (and most delicious) way to cook tofu. Using firm tofu, prep it as explained above, toss it in seasoned cornflour and shallow-fry in hot oil. Once evenly browned all over, remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Get the recipe for spinach-and-cauli noodles with crispy tofu here.
The texture of slow-cooked tofu is a reminder of what a great stand-in tofu can be for meat. This recipe features an overnight marinade, which allows it to seep down into the tofu, but you could just as easily baste the tofu as it bakes.
Get the recipe for slow-baked marinated tofu here.
A quick, fuss-free way to cook tofu is to treat it as you would any other protein and sear it. Cook it quickly on both sides with a little bit of oil, remove from the heat, season and serve – ideally with a punchy dressing.
Get the recipe for seared tofu with sushi rice here.
To add a bit of texture to the tofu, you can also give it something of a schnitzel treatment. Toss it in panko breadcrumbs – or even sesame seeds – and shallow-fry and serve. If you’d like to glaze your tofu, don’t marinate it beforehand the way you would with the slow-cooked method. Instead, once the tofu has cooked on both sides, baste it with marinade in the pan and allow to caramelise for a minute or two before flipping and repeating on the other side.
Get the recipe for nasi goreng-inspired rice with crispy sriracha tofu here.
With soft or silken tofu, the best way to serve it is to do very little to it. Make a dressing with strong flavours, such as ponzu or soya sauce and serve with the tofu. You can add sliced cucumber or radishes for texture.
Get the recipe for tofu and radish bowl here.