Tofu – how to make it taste more meaty, less gross


Most of the below post is already featured in the Tofu KFC-style post, but I thought I’d compile it here, especially for my darling bestie, NADZ, who thinks the texture of tofu is gross. This post is also dedicated to Kelly S., who cooked the first-ever tofu I tried – it was super delish, but every other tofu after that was gross. That first tofu sampling helped me keep my faith that good tofu was possible, and not just a pipe dream.

Not all tofus are created equal: test out a few different brands till you find one you like, or ask around your tofu-eating friends, or check online. I live in the Bay Area, California, mecca of vegan foods, and the best tofu I’ve had is the Wildwood brand.

This post is pretty specifically aimed at tofu use for savoury cooking. I almost exclusively used a super-firm style of tofu – you need the tofu to hold its shape if you’re using it as a meat substitute. One of things I like about the Wildwood brand is that it doesn’t crumble all over the place as soon as you touch it.

I read this online somewhere a long time ago, and sure enough, it works: I forget the details, but it’s something to do with the formation of ice crystals changing the structure of the tofu. Or something.

I usually throw mine in the freezer the day I buy it and then pull out and put it in the fridge the following day.

Cut the tofu into pieces – large triangles, little cubes, whatever – and lay out on top of some paper towels or tea towels. Cover with more paper towels and then weight down with a stack of heavy books or similar. Leave for at least 30 mins, and try to remember to flip it part way through, if you can (I never do because I am lazy). Alternatively, you can bake out the moisture: set oven to lowest heat (175 F or so) and lay tofu pieces out on some parchment paper on a baking sheet; bake for about 60-90mins (check after 60 mins to make sure the tofu is drying out too much).

Getting this water out is important – don’t skip. If you’re in a hurry, you could instead dry-fry it in non-stick pan.

Tofu doesn’t really have any flavour, so marinades are pretty important when cooking with it. A lot of times recipes that contain sauces won’t call for the tofu to be pre-marinated, but if you’re going for a ‘meaty’ taste, I definitely recommend it. Even if I’m crumbing and frying the tofu, I’ll pre-marinate it. I usually use a mixture of faux-chicken stock and soy sauce – you could also use faux-beef stock or just regular old vegetable stock. I still pre-press the tofu, even if I’m marinating it, because I want to replace the waterlogged grossness with tasty fake-chicken-ness. If I intend to deep-fry the tofu, then I will squeeze out the excess marinade from the tofu, before coating. 

UPDATE: I realised that marinating wasn’t all that necessary –  now I just toss it in a pan and sprinkle it with soy sauce, frying it at a low heat till brown and reasonably dry. Another tasty idea: dice it up into tiny cubes and fry it in a mixture of sesame and peanut oils, with a dash of salt.

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