Vegan since 1975, I decide to answer the question, "What DO you eat?" These posts tell about some meals and recipes my family and I have enjoyed over the years.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fried Tofu

FRIED TOFU is a staple dinner food around here. It is fast and easy to make, and goes well with a pasta dinner, rice, or any other grain, served with some steamed vegetables (including the ever-important daily dark green leafy vegetables) and maybe some sauce or gravy, or a dash of a store bought dressing or hot sauce.

Buy extra firm tofu. Be sure the store you are buying from understands how to handle and store tofu. It should smell fresh and beany when you open the package, not off in any way. Nasoya, Vitasoy and Soyboy are my local favorites. Other parts of the country will have their own. In Vermont there is a small company making tofu locally. It costs twice as much, but I like to buy some from time to time to keep their enterprise going, and to support local agriculture and industry. The aseptically packaged extra firm tofu doesn't work as well for this. Fried tofu needs to have a little body to it, and the Morinu tofus are too custard-like for this particular application.

Tofu can be frozen, but the texture will change to be spongy. This can be tasty if you add nutritional yeast, garlic or garlic powder and tamari, mixing those in with the water frozen with the tofu so it becomes a sauce as it cooks down. As it melts, slice off odd sized pieces with your spatula. This is useful if you don't have access to fresh tofu very often. Otherwise, fresh refrigerated packaged tofu should stay fresh for about a month in your refrigerator. Check the date when you buy it, and try to get the most recently made. Get it home quickly, and use a cooler in the summer in your car. In other words, this is a perishable product.

Cube the tofu. I like to cut across it three times from the side, three times the other way, and about four or five times down the long way, making forty-five to fifty-four pieces, enough for about five people. You really don't need as much protein to be healthy as many people eat or think they need, and the tofu should just be some tasty nibbles among the grains and vegetables which form the larger part of the meal. If you don't have that many people living with you, then you are now the happy possessor of some protein nibbles for the next day—or tomorrow night's dinner.

Fry the tofu in about a Tablespoon of olive oil. Use medium heat, and let it sit on each side (you can be as fastidious as you like about this, but I end up randomly flipping the cubes over maybe four or five times) to brown a little before turning with a spatula. The sharper the edge of your spatula, the better luck you'll have scraping the tasty fried part away from the pan. Plastic spatulas won't work for this. You need a sharp metal one, so look for one at a thrift store or yard sale. (Or go to a kitchen supply store for a heavy duty professional one, if you'd prefer.) I use a well cured cast iron frying pan, which seems to work very well for most applications, if you don't use soap when washing it (which removes the cured finish).

While you are frying the tofu, sprinkle it with tamari, about a teaspoon or so (however much salt you can handle). If you can't use salt, substitute Bragg's liquid seasoning, available at health food stores. I also sprinkle it with nutritional yeast, but you don't have to.

When it is browned and looks good, it's done.

You could also bread the tofu or mix it with seasonings and flour before cooking, if you want it with more of a crust, but this is the kind we eat several times a week.

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