The perfect guide to making tofu taste delicious

If cooking with tofu seems intimidating, Verna Gao has three simple and delicious recipes that will make the plant-based protein a staple in your kitchen

Thursday 18 March 2021 12:36
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So, tofu is not your thing. You keep seeing it everywhere, but you don’t know why it’s so popular or how to cook with it. Well, you’re not alone – I’ve heard this so many times, and I’m determined to change your mind. As the world grows increasingly more aware of how much carbon is used in the meat industry, more and more people are opting for plant-based options, and tofu is usually top of that list.

The great thing about tofu is that it’s a pretty cheap plant-based protein. Yes, the texture and the whole idea of it may seem unusual (it’s made from soybeans and water), but the production process is actually relatively similar to how cheese is made. And since it’s so neutral in taste, it acts as the perfect vehicle for carrying flavour in all kinds of dishes.

Allow me to introduce a few of my favourite easy tofu recipes to change your mind... or fuel your obsession with the beloved bean curd.

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Teriyaki tofu sticks

My most popular recipe by far, and with good reason. This teriyaki tofu wrapped in nori seaweed is super easy and such an umami bomb. The nori seaweed is the game changer here, it adds a little extra texture and flavour, so if you've never liked tofu, try this and let me change your mind!

Serves 2

Prep time: 10 mins

Total time: 10 mins

Ingredients

300g firm tofu, cut into equal sized sticks

1-2 sheets of nori seaweed, cut to size suitable for wrapping around tofu

30g cornflour

1tbsp Japanese mirin

1tbsp brown sugar, or honey

3tbsp light soy sauce

5tbsp water

Instructions

Mix the sauces together and set aside.

Dip the pieces of cut seaweed lightly in water before wrapping it around each piece of tofu.

Coat each piece of wrapped tofu generously in cornflour, covering all sides

Heat up a pan with cooking oil and gently pan fry until golden brown.

When the tofu is all cooked, turn the heat down to low and pour the teriyaki sauce over it. Let the water evaporate and sauce thicken, turning the tofu slightly to ensure all sides are evenly coated.

Sprinkle on some sesame seeds as garnish and serve immediately with some rice or just by itself.

Crispy tofu bites

The easiest trick to make tofu more exciting and add texture is to coat it in a little cornflour and then pan fry to give it a crispy bite. This is one of my go-tos when I want to add some extra protein to my lunches. It’s perfect throwing on as a topping to noodles, salads or just a snack.

You can totally serve this with any of your favourite dips instead of soy sauce. Switch it up with sweet chilli or sriracha – your kitchen cupboard is your oyster! Alternatively, see the next recipe for sauce inspiration.

Serves 2

Prep time: 15 mins

Total time: 15 mins

Ingredients

500g firm tofu, cut into cubes

50g cornflour

½tsp salt

2tbsp light soy sauce

2tbsp cooking oil

1tsp sesame oil

Instructions

Salt the tofu and leave for 5 minutes or so.

Coat all sides of the tofu in cornflour

Mix the cooking oil with the sesame oil and heat them up in a frying pan. Gently pan fry the cubed tofu until all sides are golden brown.

Add the soy sauce just before you finish cooking and toss the tofu around to ensure even coverage.

Serve immediately with an optional dollop of chilli oil alongside rice or noodles, or just as it is.

Sticky cashew tofu

Now that you’ve seen my favourite trick to add texture to tofu with cornflour, here’s another recipe to level that up. Sticky cashew tofu – kind of like cashew chicken, except not, and 100 per cent vegan friendly.

This sticky sauce is packed full of flavour, and the texture combination of the crunchy cashews along with the baked tofu drenched in this sauce is super addictive.

Serves 2

Prep time: 15 mins

Total time: 25 mins

Ingredients

350g medium firm tofu

100g cornflour

2tbsp soy sauce

1tbsp hoisin sauce

1tbsp sugar

2tbsp rice vinegar

150ml water

Pinch of salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a baking tray sprayed with oil

Mix the cornflour and some salt together and coat the tofu generously on all sides. Bake this in the oven for 25-30 mins. Alternatively, you can also pan fry this until golden. Feel free to choose whichever way you prefer.

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While the tofu is being baked, you may also want to roast some cashew nuts. This is optional.

Prepare the sauce by combining the soy, hoisin, sugar, vinegar and water together. Set aside.

Once the tofu is lightly browned, heat up a pan with some oil and sauté the garlic and ginger for about a minute, before adding in the tofu. Cook for another 2-3 mins.

Add in the cashew nuts and also the sauce. Stir to mix thoroughly and allow the water to reduce and sauce to thicken. It should turn glossy and sticky. Season to taste and add in the spring onions before removing from the heat.

Serve with some steamed rice and greens. Enjoy!

Verna Gao is a food blogger and author of ‘Easy Asian Recipes’. She is donating 100 per cent of the proceeds to non-profit organisations fighting against Covid-fuelled hate crimes against Asian communities. Find out more here

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