by Jay Mallin, Eco-Action Team
If there’s one ingredient I just couldn’t figure out, it was tofu. First of all, while it tastes great in meals ordered in Asian restaurants, when I went to cook it myself the big wet blocks found inside the packages looked to me more like Soylent Green, minus the green, than anything I cared to eat. And then, when I tried to follow the recipes, the stuff seemed to just fall apart rather than develop the toasted look I wanted.
Then one day I found a simple explanation of how to deal with tofu, and it all came together. And the secret method was simple enough: Buy a package of firm or extra firm tofu, and slice into half-inch slabs. Put some oil in a skillet, get the skillet almost smoking hot. Then place the slabs in the oil – and don’t touch them for about three minutes! Flip them, making sure there’s still oil underneath, and fry for another three minutes – and again don’t touch them during that three minutes. Finally scoop them out and use those attractively browned slices in whatever recipe you’re working on. (Rather than slices you can also do cubes or strips -it’s pretty much the same process no matter how you slice it!)
That’s it! It seems to be the natural impulse to push the pieces around while cooking that leads to disaster. If this all seems too simple, I’ll say that sure, there are recipes that tell you to drain or dry the tofu first. And incredible double-fried recipes or recipes that require cornstarch and other coatings to get a great crunch. But for basic tofu as part of a good fast meal, none of that is necessary.
Speaking of fast meals, here’s a family-friendly recipe that uses this method to get a good dinner from fridge to plate in less than 20 minutes: Quick & Simple Tofu with Veggies