Tofu is one of those foods that makes you go, “ew.” It’s boring, unattractive, and about as bland as the expression of the recipient of one of my bad jokes. That is all true, unless you know how to work with it, which the majority of people don’t. Luckily for you, I have some tips.
You see, contrary to popular belief, there are very few dishes in which you can just take the tofu out of its package and use it. You gotta give it some love first. There are three basic steps to follow if you don’t want to end up with tasteless soy slabs.
Really, the most important step of tofu prep is the marinade, but there are a couple things you can (must) do to make the marinade work its magic.
- The PRESS: Pressing it first allows the excess water to drain out, which makes it much easier for the marinade to soak in, resulting in more flavor. To press, lay tofu on a few layers of absorbent towel, cover with another few layers, and place a cast iron pan (or something else relatively heavy such as a stack of books) on top. Let it press for at least fifteen minutes.
- The CUT: You wouldn’t think that the shape you cut it into would make much of a difference, but let me tell you. I tried this same recipe with cubes instead of small strips and although they looked really good, they were pretty tasteless. There wasn’t enough surface area and the marinade wasn’t able to fully soak in, so the inside of the cubes were still white and plain. I have found through experimentation that the strips I describe in this recipe are the best shape. It makes them flavorful and much more crispy.
- The MARINADE: There are an endless amount of marinades you can use for tofu, from a basic soy sauce to an elaborate steak marinade. But my absolute favorite is the one in the recipe below. It’s a combination of recipes I have tried in the past year and it’s simple, uses ingredients you probably have on hand, and results in a delightful Asian flavor.
So the next time tofu crosses your path, instead of giving it a hard pass, give this little dilly a try and tell me how your life changes. And if it doesn’t, well…you probably did something wrong.
Basic Tofu Strips
Crispy, flavorful tofu strips to eat as a snack or add to other dishes.
•1 block extra-firm tofu
For the marinade:
•1 tbsp vegetable oil
•1 tbsp dark/toasted sesame oil
•3 tbsp soy sauce
•2 tsp peeled, grated ginger root (optional)
•1 garlic clove, pressed (or crushed and minced)
- Drain tofu, then press by laying the block on a few layers of absorbent towel, covering with another few layers, and placing a cast iron pan (or equivalent weight) on top. Let it press for at least fifteen minutes.
- While tofu is pressing, whisk together all ingredients for the marinade.
- Cut tofu into 1/2 inch wide strips, then cut in half width-wise so each piece is 1/2 inch wide and a few inches long. Poke with a fork on both sides, put in a water-tight container, pour marinade on top, and gently shake or stir so strips are evenly covered.
- Marinate for at least an hour and up to overnight, shaking container every once in a while to evenly coat the strips.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spread tofu strips out evenly. Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning over halfway through.