Cooking a new food can always be a daunting task. It requires a lot of prep, some research, and a lot of bravery and even with all this, sometimes your meal just doesn’t turn out as it should.
Anyone who has tried to master a curry for the first time with no help from an experienced grandmother knows exactly what we are talking about.
Some of the most mundane food can be the most difficult and often when you find the solution or the right cooking technique, it seems so obvious that you will beat yourself up about not realizing sooner.
Tofu fits this category well. It is a seemingly innocuous block that can be cut up and put into many dishes, and those dishes are frequently some of the most delicious.
But here in the west, we have a habit of getting this ingredient so very wrong, when we try to cook it. It seems to constantly end in a soggy mess, lacking completely in texture and nothing like the tofu dishes you get in restaurants.
Well, I’m here to inform you that there are right ways to cook and prepare tofu that will give you a perfect treat to add to your food. Here are the biggest mistakes you are making when cooking your tofu.
What Is Tofu?
First for those who have been asked to tackle this ingredient or for those curious but not knowledgeable about tofu. Tofu is a soybean curd that has been pressed into blocks, ready for consumption.
First, soybeans are made into soy milk by cleaning and soaking them, before they are ground in water. The resulting mixture is filtered and boiled, which results in soy milk. Then, the boiled milk is coagulated, which turns the mixture into soybean curds.
The tofu is then pressed into shape. This not only accomplishes the block shapes that tofu comes in but also decides what kind of tofu you get, depending on the amount of water drained.
The more water that is drained, the harder the tofu will be, and similarly the more water that the tofu retains, the softer the tofu will be.
Tofu comes in four standard varieties, though there are many more that are available, they are just not as common. The varieties are extra soft, soft, firm, and extra firm.
Tofu has been a staple of East Asian cuisine for almost 2000 years and in some countries, it is seen at almost every mealtime.
China and Japan have an especially close relationship with tofu, and adding tofu to fill out dishes in these countries is not an uncommon occurrence.
Now we are all up to speed on what tofu is, it is time to explore what we are doing so wrong when we cook and prepare it. Some of them may seem obvious, while others may catch you by surprise.
If nothing else, you should take each one into account when next making a tofu-based dish.
The Wrong Tofu
We mentioned earlier about the different kinds of tofu. Well, different kinds of tofu have to be cooked or prepared differently.
The most common type of tofu available in the west is silken or soft tofu and more often than not, people will pick this tofu up at the supermarket and try to use it in a frying pan.
Big mistake. Silken tofu is impossibly soft and will melt in your mouth. It is perfect for soups or puddings, but not frying. Its high-water content means it will just sputter and not brown.
Conversely, extra firm tofu is bad for soups and puddings. It is very firm in texture and isn’t fluid at all. As such, make sure you are buying the correct tofu for your dish.
Tofu requires pressing for the most part. All tofu’s you will get come in water or seep water. You don’t want that water in your tofu.
It interrupts the cooking process and gives what you are making an off-flavor that is a little unpleasant.
Before cooking or even cutting the tofu, remove it from the packaging and wrap it in a tea towel or in paper towels. Then place a heavy, but not incredibly object on top of the tofu, like a small frying pan.
Leave the tofu like this for 30 minutes and up to an hour, before unpacking and getting rid of any excess liquid on the tofu. Now it is ready to cook.
We marinate chicken, beef, pork, fish, why not tofu? Most of the time, tofu is the main protein in the dish it is in, so you should treat it as such.
One of the great qualities that tofu has is that it can absorb flavors really well, which is why it is frequently cooked in a pan sauce.
Yet, you can still improve your tofu, all you have to do is marinate it. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a little bit of marinade, and your dish will be improved tenfold.
Tofu is a food that should be eaten fresh. Part of the reason it is kept in water inside the packaging is to retain its freshness. If you eat old tofu, it may be stale or sour, much like when cheese goes off.
Therefore, try to eat tofu as fresh as possible, and it will taste great.
As you can see, most of the problems that affect tofu are preparation-based. However, if you prepare your tofu well, there is no reason that you can’t have a wonderful dinner using it.
Cooking tofu is a daunting task for most people, but honestly, it shouldn’t be. It is a wonderfully versatile food that can be used in a multitude of dishes and with a variety of ingredients.
It is an easy food to experiment with and as long as you prepare it properly you should not have any difficulties in making a beautiful, delicious tofu meal.