My love for tofu has roots, and they run deep. The first time I tried it – pre-vegetarian days – was when I was in the 8th grade. I went to a local Thai restaurant with a friend and her mom, and we had Pad Thai. Not a fan of chicken or other meats, she suggested tofu. I balked at the thought.
And then I tried it. Delicious, in all of its deep-fried glory, and accented with the requisite peanut garnish. I was hooked.
I quickly ventured beyond Pad Thai with tofu, and tried it in summer rolls (my favorite), in place of chicken in other Asian cuisines, and in tacos (my second favorite).
There’s something to be said for making tofu at home. It’s not a labor of love, but it’s not as easy as 1-2-3.
No matter how you want to enjoy your tofu, if you’re going for firm or extra firm, you’re going to want (and need, really) to drain the water. Tofu is porous, and so even when you drain the tofu block from its package, you’re still stuck with the water that the tofu has soaked up.
Draining is easy, but time consuming. Place your tofu on a plate that’s lined with paper towel or a clean tea towel. Cover the top of your tofu with more of the same, and then rest something heavy on top. I use my Le Creuset dutch oven or my ceramic tea pot. Leave it for 45 minutes, discard the paper towels, and you’ll have nicely drained tofu ready to be cut into shapes of your choosing.
Draining is only half the battle. The other important thing is coating. If you’re doing something simple that doesn’t need a crunch, your drained tofu should still produce beautiful grill marks (think sesame oil and soy sauce grilled tofu topped with sesame seeds and scallions) after you marinade it.
The key to that crisp outer coating, especially if you’re like me and prefer not to fry things but still enjoy the indulgence of crunch, is dredging the tofu in corn starch. You can bake this at 375 for 30 minutes and get a nice brown (I like to spray it and the baking sheet with avocado oil), or you can pan-fry with a spray of avocado or grape seed oil. When you’re done, finish with whatever sauce or seasonings you’d like. You can also season the corn starch before dredging. I enjoy seasoning it in the pan with garlic powder and za’atar.