How to Tofu: A Beginner's Guide

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To Fu... or not To Fu?

Is that the question?

Some people would perhaps say that tofu is bland and go with the latter. But in fact, tofu is more like an empty canvas than anything. It is so versatile that it can be used in everything from cheesecakes to BBQ skewers.

The chamelon of cooking! Basically, tofu is just ready to get soaked up with whatever flavour you bring its way. That is, provided that you treat it right. Unsure how? Worry not, just keep reading!

This post will guide you through:

  • The different types of tofu and which to use for what
  • How to best prepare the tofu
  • What to consider when marinating
  • Tonnes of recipe ideas

Types of tofu and which to use for what

Generally, there are two main groups of tofu - silken and regular. These exist in different varieties such as firm, medium firm, extra-firm depending on water content. The one thing you need to note though is that they are not interchangable in recipes, so it is best to know you are getting the right kind; rather than which variety, in my opinion.

Silken tofu has, as the name suggests, a smooth surface. It is very fragile and thus crumbles easily. Silken tofu does not need to be pressed, but you can rather wrap it a few times in kitchen roll to remove excess water. It is normally used blended up into a smooth consistency, and is good item for making batters and sauces, along with baking and scrambled tofu.

Regular tofu is more spongy in consistensy. Due to its high water content, it needs to be pressed before cooked and marinated - or else the end result will be bland. Instructions for this will follow in the next paragraph. Regular tofu can be used for deep frying, sandwich fillings, BBQ skewers, diced into curries or salads... an ongoing list of goodies!

Preparing the tofu properly

Step one: The drier the better!

The golden rule here, unlike for sex or pools, is that dry equals good. Tofu is packed with, and then in, water. When it is this waterlogged it won't crisp or absorb flavour... and that is no fun! We will need to press out as much of that H2O as possible before moving forwards.

First, simply drain the water from the tofu package. You can try to gently squeeze some out some extra with your hands. Now, if you are real fancy, you might have a tofu press to use. But, since this is a beginner's guide and it works equally well, you can also make one up. Wrap the block of tofu up in either kitchen roll or a clean kitchen towel, then leave under a weight for at least an hour. Weights can be anything from a dictionary to canned tomatoes.

Bonus: Alternative method for firmer, chewier tofu!

Introducing - the freezing method! Remove the tofu from its packaging. Easiest here is if you slice it into fillets straight away, as it will defrost more quickly later on. Wrap the tofu in cling film and then leave in the freezer for a couple of hours.

When it is time to use the tofu: let it thaw in the fridge, then press it like instructed above. The tofu gets firmer by doing it this way, and is thus less likely to break when handling.

Step two: Cut correctly!

So now we got rid of that excess water - it is time to get the kitchen knife out. Thinner slices allows for more flavour to be soaked up, as well as a crispier texture. But maybe I am preaching to the choir here.

Slicing the tofu length wise is good for burgers, sandwich fillings and steak-like meals. Or for making making f*sh and chips.
Cut the tofu into cubes is ideal for using in stir-fries, curries and salads.

Step three: The seasoning!

For you non-tofu converts that claim it is bland... what do you think makes a steak taste good? Sugar and spice and everything nice, of course! Think herbs, citrus, vinegar, veggie stock, spices, tamari and syrups.

Note: But avoid marinating in oil if you can. As tofu is so water dense, and oil + water do not mix, this will only prevent the marinade from doing its job properly...

Step four: Cooking time!

Time to get down to cooking business. Regardless if you are frying the tofu plain or in batter - toss it in some corn starch right before. This will help create some extra crisp for the coating.

But above all: Make sure the skillet is HOT, HOT, HOT!

Some recipes to try out your new skills:

Or simply click the photos of this post to get to its recipe.

 

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