I LOVE tofu. LOVE it…oh so much.
My tofu love affair began when I started my career at The Stir Fire in college, an Asian Fusion restaurant that used to be located at Summit Mall in Akron, Ohio. Think P.F. Chang’s meets Stir Crazy/Mongolian BBQ. I had never had tofu before, but had been slightly thrown off by the look and texture of the substance.
It only took one bite of tofu bathed in a sea of spicy, savory Asian sauce, and I was hooked.
When I eat out, I always order tofu if I have the option because I love it so much. However, I was always kind of scared to cook tofu. I mean, have you seen the tofu you buy at the store? It’s not the most appealing, and I couldn’t quite figure out what I was supposed to do with it once I got it home.
But now I know the secret to cooking the perfect tofu. There are 2 key factors:
Tofu is like a sponge. It absorbs any type of sauce that it is soaked in. However, the confusing part is that it is actually stored in water, so when you take it out of the package before you cook it, it’s already filled with water.
That’s the key. You have to get that water out, so it can suck up all the goodness of its marinade.
And that’s where the dry-frying method comes into play.
So, behold the ultimate tofu cooking method…
How to Dry-Fry Tofu
Step 1: Prep the tofu
Open the tofu carefully, as the package is filled with water. Tofu can be found in the veggie aisle of your grocery store. I always buy the “Extra Firm” kind…because…well…I don’t want it to be all soft and mushy. Rocket science, I know.
Remove the block of tofu from the water and place it on a clean kitchen towel. I’ve thought about using paper towels for this, but then had a vision of having to pick pieces of shredded paper towel off of my tofu block, and decided against it. You do whatever you want. Maybe if you don’t buy the cheapest paper towels known to man (like I do), they won’t shred. They should put tofu drying to the test in their next “Bounty” commercial. And for that gem of an idea, you’re welcome, Bounty.
Sorry, I’m on a tangent. Back to business: Throw the tofu block on the towel and cut the tofu. I filet the tofu in half horizontally (is that confusing? See, that’s why I take pictures…because I don’t know the fancy cooking lingo).
Next, fold the top of the towel on top of the tofu and press down gently to squeeze out excess water.
Step 2: Cut the tofu
I cut mine into strips first during dry fying process, then into little cubes mid-way through. There’s really no technique here. Some people like to do triangles, too. That’s just not my thang.
The only reason I didn’t cut them into cubes first was because I thought it was would be easier to prep them this way, but in hindsight, I realize either way will work.
Step 3: Put the tofu in the pan
I used a non-stick skillet, and didn’t even bother using any non-stick cooking spray…but you can if you know your pan will stick. Turn the burner on medium heat.
Step 4: Dry fry the tofu
Place the tofu in a single layer on the non-stick pan, so the largest area is facing down. Space them evenly apart, because as they cook, water will seep out, and it needs somewhere to go.
Now, it’s time to dry-fry! Use a spatula, preferably one with slits, and gently press on the top of the tofu, pushing the excess water out. By using a slotted spatula, steam and water can escape out of the top of the tofu as well.
Work your way around the pan, pressing, pressing, pressing to get the water out. The hotter the pan gets, the more you’ll notice the water seepage…it’ll steam and sizzle around the pieces. I find this oddly fun, but maybe I’m just weird (probably).
Continue to press the water out of the tofu as it cooks. Flip a piece of tofu and see if it looks golden brown to see if it’s ready to be turned. If so, flip them all and repeat the pressing process.
After a bit more pressing, I cut mine up, but as I said, you could have done this awhile ago.
Just look at those beautiful golden-brown nuggets of delicious.
I <3 you tofu.
Obviously, you think I’m crazy now. I don’t blame you. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands. This is what happens when Brad lives in another city and I don’t have him there, pounding his fork and knife on the table and chanting “Dinner! Dinner!” (He doesn’t really do that.) ;)
Sometimes I try to flip the tofu on its side to get each little edge golden brown, but that’s not really necessary.
Step 5: Get Saucy!
I have a few different delicious sauce recipes for tofu, but you could use any type of bottled sauce Asian sauce. If you have time, leave the tofu in the sauce to marinade; though, I don’t ever think that far ahead, and the tofu still absorbs the sauce really well. That’s the beauty of this recipe: since a lot of the water has been evaporated out of the tofu, it sucks up the sauce like a little sponge. Another bonus, you don’t have to use any oil or fat to cook it, making it so much healthier than deep-frying it (like they do in restaurants).
Here are some links to my favorite tofu recipes:
Sweet, Sticky, and Spicy Tofu
I follow this recipe, but use tofu instead of chicken.
Better than Take Out Orange Tofu
I’ve never tried this with tofu, but I have with chicken, and it is totally yum. My goal is to do this with the tofu next time.
Peanut Curry Tofu
And finally, this is another I’ve never made with tofu, but I think it would be ohhh so good. Just use the recipe for the sauce: “In a separate pot, mix together the vegetable oil, red curry paste, peanut butter, and garlic, and heat on medium.” (This is an excellent recipe in itself - you should try it if you’re a fan of curry.)
For this particular tofu, I made the Sweet, Sticky, and Spicy Tofu sauce. Confession: the recipe calls for real ginger, but I use powdered. Please don’t think less of me.
I also added broccoli and shitake mushrooms and served it over brown rice. It was amazing.
Enjoy, and let me know how it goes if you try it!
What are some of your favorite Asian tofu recipes? I’d love to hear them…I’m quite obsessed with Asian fare…I think I could eat it every day!