If there’s one ingredient it’s best to maintain stocked in your fridge, it is tofu. The versatile, sometimes cheap, and often-overlooked plant-protein is crucial in so many Asian recipes and can be utilized throughout quite a lot of cuisines as a meat substitute or so as to add additional protein and taste.
Comprised of soybean curd, tofu is a each day meals throughout Asia. In the event you’re not utilizing tofu often, you are lacking out—and we’re right here to alter that. “On the whole, it is a very simple ingredient to make use of. You may simply take it out of the fridge at any time to make a quite simple recipe,” says Maggie Zhu, creator of Chinese language Homestyle: On a regular basis Plant-Primarily based Recipes for Takeout, Dim Sum, Noodles, and Extra. “You may season it nonetheless you need, and it may be very, very flavorful, and have a terrific texture—crispy, tender, and chewy.”
This is the whole lot it’s essential to find out about cooking with tofu, due to Zhu’s experience.
Earlier than You Prepare dinner
This is what to bear in mind when meals buying—and find out how to prep tofu earlier than it hits the warmth.
Shopping for Tofu
In america, tofu is usually offered in blocks of various texture—silken, gentle, medium, agency, and further agency. Sure varieties are preferable for various recipes. “I rotate my sort of tofu,” Zhu says. “Within the U.S., the agency and further agency tofus are the most well-liked, however medium and gentle have a really good texture.”
She prefers silken tofu, which is sort of a curd, for soups, braises, and chilly dishes, and says agency and further agency work properly for stir-fries and rice dishes.
Tofu presses have turn out to be a well-liked commodity on the house cooking web, however urgent tofu is not important to cooking this protein. “I hardly ever press my tofu,” Zhu says. “Loads of cooks suggest urgent tofu as a result of it can make the feel agency up and make it much less watery.”
In the event you’re marinating tofu, Zhu recommends a quick press to permit the tofu to soak up extra juice. In the event you’re utilizing gentle or medium tofu, do not press it—you will smash the fragile texture.
Learn how to Press Tofu
Begin by patting the tofu dry with paper towels. Then squeeze out the water over the sink—that is all Zhu does. You may also let paper towel-wrapped tofu relaxation on a slicing board with a heavy object on prime, equivalent to a skillet or a cookbook. Simply do not over-do it. “[Over-pressing] can destroy the feel and [cause the tofu to] turn out to be powerful,” Zhu says.
Tofu can be utilized straight out of the package deal, however marinating it provides additional oomph. “Once I marinate tofu, I add my seasoning and cornstarch. It will not get tremendous watery,” Zhu says. “Often the best method is to make use of salt, paper, shaoxing wine [a Chinese cooking wine], and cornstarch.”
One other straightforward marinade she loves is 2 elements soy sauce to 1 half maple syrup.
Learn how to Marinate Tofu
- Add minimize or torn items of tofu to a resealable freezer bag holding the marinade. Let it sit for 15 to twenty minutes.
- Drain and coat the tofu with cornstarch for additional crunch earlier than cooking.
Zhu recommends utilizing a sealable freezer bag for marinating, because it helps the tofu keep in touch with the marinade higher than it will in a dish. This method can work with any flavors or brines you like. Lemon pepper tofu? Italian dressing tofu? Barbecue tofu with liquid smoke? Go for it.
The Greatest Methods to Prepare dinner Tofu
Now, your tofu is prepared for cooking. Listed below are Zhu’s six favourite strategies.
Stir-frying is Zhu’s go-to methodology for cooking tofu—it is environment friendly, scrumptious, and versatile. “I make lots of tofu and broccoli, Common Tso’s tofu, and Kung Pao tofu. Pan-fried tofu will get a pleasant crisp texture outdoors, however stays gentle inside,” she says.
Learn how to Stir-Fry Tofu
- Gently press the tofu, marinate, and coat in cornstarch (see above).
- Add to a wok or pan preheated with cooking oil and let fry for one to 2 minutes so it crisps on the underside.
- Flip and let cook dinner for an additional one to 2 minutes. Gently stir and serve.
Baked tofu is a hands-off option to make a protein-packed entrée that you need to use instead of any roasted protein. “Tofu soaks up the flavour whereas it [bakes],” Zhu says.
Learn how to Bake Tofu
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Minimize tofu into triangles or planks. Brush with soy sauce, chili pepper, toasted sesame oil, and some other seasoning.
- Bake tofu for 15 to twenty minutes, flipping as soon as halfway by way of.
Your air fryer and tofu are about to turn out to be greatest buddies. “I like to make use of the air fryer for an oil-free deep-fried tofu recipe,” Zhu says. “Simply minimize it up and throw it within the air fryer for little protein bites that crisp up naturally. They’re so golden and chewy.”
Learn how to Air-Fry Tofu
- Preheat the air fryer to 390°F.
- Dice the tofu. Toss it in soy sauce and cornstarch. Add slightly sesame oil, if desired.
- Add the tofu to the air fryer and cook dinner for 5 minutes.
You may also replicate this course of at 400°F in a convection oven.
Braising is a good way to let the tofu take up a mess of flavors and likewise tenderizes it. The method is utilized in mapo tofu, certainly one of Zhu’s favourite dishes—and one of many recipes she cooks most incessantly at house. “You needn’t do a lot,” she says.
Learn how to Braise Tofu
- Cube gentle tofu and cook dinner for eight to 10 minutes over medium warmth in broth, so the “tofu absorbs tons of taste,” says Zhu.
- So as to add texture to braised tofu, attempt slicing the tofu into bigger rectangles or triangles, calmly fry them (much like browning meat earlier than a braise), after which braise.
Steaming is one other certainly one of Zhu’s go-to strategies. She likes to make use of it when cooking silken tofu, which “can have a really soybean-forward style when it is uncooked,” she says. “However if you wish to serve one thing [that is] actually mild, steamed tofu drains off the water and cooks off the uncooked style.”
Learn how to Steam Tofu
- Slice silken or gentle tofu into squares or blanks, and organize it in a steamer over boiling water. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Whereas the tofu is cooking, make a sauce (combining soy sauce with chili crisp is a straightforward possibility).
- Take away the tofu from the warmth and drizzle with sauce.
In the event you’re skipping floor meat or lowering how a lot meat you eat, do-it-yourself tofu crumbles are the best way to go. “I like to make use of these in noodles or in a lettuce wrap. They’ve a floor meat texture,” Zhu says. She’ll additionally use them as a topping for Dan Dan Noodles.
Learn how to Make Tofu Crumbles
- Place half a block of tofu and an equal quantity of walnuts in a meals processor. Pulse to mix. Combination ought to retain some texture (not tremendous advantageous; some texture ought to stay).
- Sauté with soy sauce. The combination needs to be gooey, not crispy, and distribute properly, in order that it grabs onto the noodles and provides texture to the dish.
In the event you do not eat nuts, Zhu recommends dicing tofu into ¼-inch to ½-inch squares, frying the sq. in oil, and being affected person whereas they brown. They will turn out to be tremendous crispy bites, like floor meat, to make use of in lettuce wraps or as a topping.
Different Tofu Merchandise to Strive
Suppose past the block—there are different tofu merchandise to attempt, Zhu says. She recommends buying at an Asian grocery retailer to search out them. She loves the fried tofu, or tofu pups; it is ethereal and fluffy and might be chopped up and added to stir fries or soups for extra protein or taste. Zhu can be a fan of yuba sheets—which can be utilized like spring roll wrappers—and smoked tofu, which might be sliced into skinny, thread-like noodles and will not break aside.