Best techniques and cooking methods to make Tofu tasty
Pressed bean curd – a food that everyone thinks is rubbish, weird, tasteless or rubbery until it’s cooked and enjoyed properly!
We are now half way through Veganuary. Those who are still going strong, well done! Those who aren’t taking part in Veganuary but are veggie or cutting down on their meat in take, well done! It isn’t a competition, its a mind set. If you are aware of your meat, egg and dairy consumption and are actively trying to reduce these then you are part of the journey to a better, healthier planet. Thank you! This week we tackle tofu. Many people ignore this if they see it on a menu or in the supermarket because historically it hasn’t been cooked in a way to it’s maximum potential.
Tofu has taken the vegan scene by storm. It is everywhere. In BBQ, Indian, Chinese cuisines just to name a few. It is fried, boiled, baked and crumbled. But it is also very scary to try to cook at home. Many of you may have tried and failed miserably, including myself. BUT, we have a guide to ensure this never happens again.
Tofu is one of the most versatile foods, it has a mild taste which can absorb any flavours you wish. It’s extremely high in protein and should be a staple to any veggie or vegan diet out there.
We always recommend you buy medium or firm tofu. These are the best for grilling, frying and baking, which in our opinion are the most delicious ways to enjoy tofu.
Step One : Press it
Lots of people cook tofu straight from the packet. This will keep the tofu soggy and won’t allow many flavours to be absorbed. Like tinned beans or fish tofu is packed with water to keep it from drying out. It is almost completely saturated upon opening so you will need to press the tofu to drain the water. This will give space within the structure of the tofu to absorb new flavours.
- Ideally you want to buy extra firm tofu, but if you can only get medium just press the tofu a little longer.
- When you open your tofu drain it and either keep it as a full block or cut it into even strips – we would suggest into four. Lay the block or strips out on a baking tray or in the middle of a flat plate.
- Place either another baking tray, or another plate on top of the tofu and grab some heavy items. We usually use two or three cook books piled on top to add pressure. Instantly you will see some of the water drain.
- The amount of time you drain depends on how prepared you are. We would recommend at least two hours. If you can drain it in the morning and leave it in the fridge (if space allows) until you’re back from work and cook for dinner. If you are in a hurry 30m can still be enough to get a fair amount of water out if you also apply pressure yourself, but this isn’t ideal.
- Once you are ready and have drained as much liquid as you can these can be cut up to the desired size, flavoured/marinated and cooked.
Step Two: Flavour it
Tofu has a very mild taste and can be enjoyed without any flavour if added to broths or curries. But we at E.C.O. are big on flavour so love packing our tofu with a punch.
One common mistake people do is whack tofu in a marinade with an oily base. As tofu is packaged in water if the tofu isn’t drained enough the flavour cannot penetrate as water and oil do not mix.
We suggest going for a dry rub before grilling, battering the tofu before frying or choose marinades that are stronger. Vinegar based, soy sauce based or citrus based are a good start and can be built up over time with spices and chillies. Alternatively you could go for a stock and add extra flavour before adding to a broth or noodle soup. Tofu can also be frozen once marinated to save time for your future busy self.
We have 26 great marinades courtesy of Vegan Food and Living which we suggest you have a go at. Play around with the ratios for these to find your favourite flavours.
|Asian||Mirin, brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic granules, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, agave nectar|
|BBQ||Tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke (a dash, it’s very strong), onion powder, garlic powder, sumac, smoked paprika, ground black pepper|
|Canadian||Chipotle smoked hot pepper sauce, a dash of Bourbon, maple syrup, smoked paprika|
|‘Chicken’||Red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, hot chilli powder, olive oil|
|Ethiopian||Olive oil, ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, chilli, cloves, all spice, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, ginger, dried apricot|
|‘Fish’||Soya milk, kelp flakes, lemon juice, crushed garlic, black pepper|
|French||White wine vinegar, olive oil, white wine, Dijon mustard, crushed garlic, black pepper, fresh or dried thyme|
|Greek||Natural soya yoghurt, chopped spring onion, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, fresh oregano|
|Indian||Warm water, ground coriander, turmeric, ground cumin, ginger, all spice, cinnamon, celery salt, chilli powder|
|Italian||Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, oregano, fresh or dried Italian herbs, nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar, pepper|
|Malagasy||Natural yoghurt, tomato ketchup, lemon juice, finely chopped green chillies, dried parsley, mild curry powder, ground cumin|
|Mediterranean||Balsamic vinegar, red wine, shallots, dried rosemary, dried thyme, olive oil, minced garlic, pepper|
|Mexican||Chipotle sauce, lime juice, tomato purée, garlic powder, onion powder, chilli powder, cayenne pepper|
|North African||Olive oil, lemon juice, cumin seeds, sweet paprika, fresh coriander, fresh parsley, cayenne pepper|
|Polish||Groundnut oil, juniper berries, black pepper, crushed garlic, onion powder, sweet paprika, brown sugar, oregano, thyme, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds|
|‘Pork’||White wine, lime juice, tamari, apple cider vinegar, crushed garlic, agave nectar|
|‘Sausage’||Rapeseed oil, onion powder, nutritional yeast, celery salt, ground coriander, ground black pepper|
|Scandinavian||Lemon juice, mustard seeds, dill, dried parsley, chives, agave nectar|
|Spanish||Hot chilli sauce, olive oil, tomato ketchup, crushed garlic, pinch of saffron, dried oregano, cayenne pepper|
|‘Steak’||Veg stock diluted in hot water, vegan Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, ground white pepper|
|Tandoori||Natural soya yoghurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper|
|Teriyaki||Soy sauce, molasses, or Hoisin plum sauce, lemon juice, crushed garlic, grated ginger, 5 spice powder|
|Thai||Coconut milk, tamari, kelp flakes, sugar, lime juice, crushed garlic, freshly grated ginger, crushed lemon grass|
|Tropical||Pineapple juice, rice vinegar, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, maple syrup|
|Turkish||Tomato paste, hot pepper sauce, water, chopped onions, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic|
|Zesty Orange||Orange juice, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger|
Step Three: Cook it
Once you have pressed and marinated your tofu we suggest you throw it in a bowl of flour or even better cornstarch before it’s dropped in a hot pan. This will seal the flavour into the tofu and also ensure a crisp outer coating with a slight crunch. This is pointless if it’s going into a soup or broth but if you’re having it in a salad, for a BBQ or in a stir fry we think this is the best way to enjoy Tofu.
Tofu can be shallow or deep fried. Depending on the size of the strips or cubes we recommend frying tofu for 2-4 minutes.
If you’re sick of greasy food and want a lighter less oily method we recommend grilling. Marinate exactly the same way but leave the flour/starch coating. Turn the grill to a medium-high heat and spray on a low-calorie oil spray to a flat baking tray. Grill the tofu evenly on each side until slightly coloured and crispy.
Tofu doesn’t actually need to be cooked before eating so there are no rules to how light or heavily the chunks are grilled. If you are having a BBQ we would recommend putting a tray on the BBQ rather than placing the tofu directly on the grill as it can crumble easily.
Baking tofu isn’t the most popular method, but it is just as delicious. It does take a little longer and a little bit more effort.
Prepare the tofu in the exact same way as before but keep a little marinade back for basting. Turn a fan oven to 180 degrees and place the strips or cubes on an oiled baking tray. Put in the oven for 45 minutes, turn the pieces and brush with marinade every 15 minutes.
We couldn’t leave you without a few more ideas for tofu dishes:
Tofu is a great ingredient for all ages and cuisines. We love tofu as it’s a versatile replacement for meat. Here at E.C.O. we are a great supporter of vegan and vegetarianism. It is widely understood that eating animal products require a huge amount of resources including land, food, energy, water and also obviously causes suffering to animals. The meat and dairy industry also have serious pollution effects on the planet.
If there is a way we can encourage people to eat more plant based diets by suggesting delicious ways to avoid meat we are happy. E.C.O. do not expect one recipe to convince you to cut out all meat and dairy, but we hope you are inspired to make a small effort to change outcomes and slowly reduce the amount of animal products you consume daily.
Grace has quit the 9-5 lifestyle in London to study marine conservation in Thailand. She will subsequently work as a scuba diving instructor with emphasis on teaching students about marine conservation and anthropogenic impacts to our oceans. Her favourite eco product is Oliva Olive Oil Soap.