Saturday, 18 February 2012

Tofu for stir-fry beginners

Three and a bit years ago, my little brother asked me for tofu tips, with a stir-frying angle. It seems a shame to keep this content in a facebook message, so here you have it. Very much designed for inexperienced cooks, and inexperienced British cooks at that:
    • tofu
      i was wondering how to cook it ive tried in stir fry even before the stir fry it doesnt seem to go yellow or if it does it burns to pan any tips?

  • 15 October 2008
    That's my kind of question!

    • Um, this turned into a bit of an essay, but it should hopefully be like the tofu-cooking bible! It's not complicated but I thought I should be thorough!

      1. Make sure you have 'firm' or 'regular' tofu: NOT 'silken'. The silken is the stuff in a little box just out on the supermarket shelves: DON'T GET THAT. Instead, get the stuff that's in the fridges, for example the Cauldron brand. The smoked version is especially nice because you don't have to marinate it at all*.

      2. Cut it up into slices - about 0.5cm thick. It's best to keep the slices pretty long. You'll need 60-100g per hungry person.

      3. Put a good splash of oil into a big flat-bottomed frying pan. Don't use a wok. Let the oil heat up for about a minute over medium heat. It's better to use vegetable oil rather than olive oil, because it has a higher burning point, therefore you shouldn't get black bits. You can tell it's hot enough when you can roll it around the pan easily.

      4. One by one, carefully put your slices of tofu into the hot oil. Give the pan a little shake every so often to slide the tofu round. Apart from that, leave well alone (but don't leave the kitchen) for about 3 minutes.

      5. After 3 minutes, use two non-meltable implements (e.g. wooden spoons) to lift one of the slices up and peek at the underneath side. If it's still really pale, read point 6. If it's nicely golden brown, read point 7.

      6. Too pale tofu: wait another minute or two until you have another look. Bear in mind that the ones in the middle will be browner than the ones at the edge of the pan.

      7. Golden tofu: success! Using your two implements, flip all of the tofu slices over so the other side can get golden brown. This will take slightly less time than it did to get the first side done. Repeat the peeking process, but after 2 minutes this time.

      8. Once both sides are nice and pale brown, you can chuck the veg into your stir-fry. Make sure it's chopped up pretty small. Those packets you can buy are quite good, but you have to add everything at the same time cos it's all mixed up, and some 
      things (e.g. onions) take longer than others (e.g. beansprouts).

      9. Poke it around until all the veg is cooked and add whatever you want (soya sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, any of those ready wok sauces you can buy, whatever you fancy!).

      * If you DO want to marinate your tofu first, get a biggish tupperware box and fill it to about 3cm depth with soya sauce, crushed/finely-chopped garlic, finely-chopped (or powdered) ginger, a bit of Marmite (mixed into the soya sauce with a fork), and a small bit of chili powder. If you've got more unusual spices like Chinese five-spice or coriander, add those too. Put your slices of tofu in, put the lid on, tip it around a bit and then put it in the fridge. After about half an hour, open it up and flip the tofu slices over, then put it back in the fridge for at least another 30 mins (but you can leave it up to 24 hours if you like). When you're ready to start frying, dangle each tofu slice over the tupperware box for a sec to shake some of the liquid out of it before you add it to the pan.

      Voilà - perfect tofu!

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