I remember the first time I tried tofu. It was raw in a whole grain wrap along with some mustard and veggies and I honestly couldn’t finish it. And when it comes to food I’m a trooper. I’ll finish just about anything as I hate wasting food. But, tofu did not strike my fancy from the start and it’s never really been my favorite, even in my hardcore vegetarian days.
But, that all changed recently during a trip to San Antonio when I ate the best tofu of my life. It was in a veggie stir-fry over coconut brown rice at a restaurant called Green Vegetarian Cuisine. If you’re ever in the area you must stop by and try this dish. Your view of tofu will be forever changed – promise.
Two bites in and I was in heaven. I had to flag the waitress down and ask her how in the world they made the tofu taste so good! I thought it was fried, but it wasn’t. Haaaa-llelujah.
The best part? It wasn’t wet or soft or soggy or lacking in flavor at all like all of the tofu I’d tried prior. She rattled off a few instructions and I made a mental note. That same week I hopped in the kitchen and gave it a go myself.
It really worked you guys! I love tofu now. It might not be as delicious as Green Vegetarian Cuisine’s version, but it’s very close. And the more I practice the better I’ll get. I have a very good feeling about this.
The basic trick is first drying the tofu, then baking it at a high temperature to brown it and create a tougher texture, and then letting it set out to dry even more. This gives it a “meat-like” texture, if you will, that makes it much more porous to soak up delicious sauces and far more appetizing in the texture department. With this tofu I can’t help but finish it all – it’s too delicious not to!
For this recipe I made a quick and simple stir-fry but once you have the basics down this tofu could be used in just about any recipe you already love. It works extremely well in stir fries because they tend to be very saucy, but I also imagine it would be delicious over salad, in faux-egg salads and even with BBQ sauce.
I hope to incorporate it into more of the meals we regularly prepare to see just how versatile it is. But from what I’ve tasted so far, I have very high hopes.
Because it was diced, baked, left out to dry and then stir-fried in the sauce, the tofu soaked up so much flavor, rendering it absolutely irresistible. Try this tofu and let me know what you think! I think even your tofu-hating friends will approve.
- 1 14-ounce (396 g) package firm or extra-firm tofu
- 2 cups (200 g) roughly chopped green beans
- 1 cup (128 g) diced carrots or red pepper
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) toasted sesame oil for sautéing (or sub peanut or coconut)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) low-sodium soy sauce (make sure it’s gluten-free if gluten-free)
- 1 Tbsp (6 g) fresh grated ginger
- 2 Tbsp (27 g) organic brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) agave or maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
- 1 Tbsp (7 g) cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and begin drying your tofu. Drain, remove it from the package and place between two thick towels folded into the shape of the tofu. Then place a plate or bowl on top and top it with something heavy like a book or skillet.
- Let it dry for about 15 minutes, changing your towels if they get too wet. Once dry, chop into roughly 1-inch cubes or rectangles (see photo).
- Arrange tofu on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet to prevent sticking and bake for a total of 25-35 minutes, flipping once halfway through to ensure even cooking. This will dry out the tofu and help give it a more meat-like texture. If you want a tougher texture, cook it for 30-35. For a slightly more tender texture, pull it out at 20-25 minutes to check.
- Once it’s golden brown and a bit tough and firm, remove from the oven set it out to dry a bit more while you prep your vegetables. Ideally, it would set out another 45 minutes or even longer. I haven’t tried letting it set out for much longer, but I don’t think it would hurt either way.
- If serving over rice, start the rice at this point.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients – set aside.
- To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add sesame oil and swirl to coat. Then add veggies and toss to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. When the vegetables have some color and have softened a bit, add the sauce and stir. It should bubble and thicken. Then add the tofu and stir to coat.
- Cook the mixture for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. When veggies are cooked to your preferred doneness, remove from heat. Serve as is or over rice for a more filling meal. Best when eaten fresh, though will keep in the refrigerator for a couple days.