If you are happy to enjoy tofu in your favorite Asian restaurant but remain mystified about what tofu to buy in the supermarket and how to prepare it at home, I am writing this for you.
If you have wistfully picked up a box of fresh tofu in the supermarket only to put it down again because it would “just sit in your refrigerator,” this is for you.
And if you think of Tofu as a blah, boring white block of protein, this is for you too.
While Tofu can be eaten safely without cooking – it should have a clean, fresh mild soy flavor – like other forms of protein, tofu benefits from seasoning or marinating. And as you may already be sick of hearing, tofu can be used in place of dairy as in (Vegan) Soy Sour Cream, and stand in for animal protein in cold dishes like Crunchy Tofu Salad. It is also tasty and convenient and in hot lunches/dinners as in the recipe for Everyday Tofu (below).
First, some brief background on buying and storing tofu.
In the main, there are two the different kinds of tofu: Fresh Tofu generally sold submerged in water and Long-Life Silken Tofu sold in sealed, aseptic packaging.
Fresh tofu – Firm to Extra Firm – is best for most uses. We are blessed in Zichron Yaakov to live in close proximity to the best fresh tofu in Israel, made and sold by Tofu An in nearby Binyamina, Israel. Tofu An is a Japanese, vegan restaurant specializing in tofu. Everything on the menu includes tofu in one incarnation or another, and based on our empirical experience it is all remarkably delicious. (The great danger of lunch at Tofu An is overeating.)
Tofu An also sells their tofu for home use and we never leave without purchasing 1-2 kilos of amazing fresh tofu on the way out the door. The photo below is 1 kilo of fresh Tofu A tofu (weighed before packaging and then sold in water); each serving of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of firm Tofu provides 17 grams of protein.
Returning home, I just stick the sealed bag of tofu in the refrigerator.
After I open the back to use some of the tofu, I shift the remainder into a storage container, taking care to ensure that it is fully submerged in water before refrigeration. If I don’t finish the remainder in a day or two, I change the water.
I have a few special recipes that specifically call for Silken (Long Life) Tofu, and you can generally find it in your supermarket in the International or Asian food aisle, in small 12 ounce / 340 gram boxes that look like this:
Silken Tofu can be safely stored in your pantry – because it is packaged aseptically it does not require refrigeration before opening. My own preference is to use Silken Tofu for desserts and of course for Vegan Sour Cream. The red box above is Soft; Mori-Nu packages their Firm Silken Tofu in a blue box, so it is easy to tell them apart. Also because the boxes are smaller (12 ounces or 340 grams) I usually use the full box for a single recipe.
So as you can see, you don’t actually need to know very much to get started cooking tofu at home. The main thing is to take a deep breath and bring some tofu home with you to experiment!
The rewards are manifold. Here is one easy recipe for basic cooked tofu that can be eaten with rice or pasta:
1 pound firm tofu
One medium onion
One clove garlic
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for cooking (I like Sunflower Oil)
1 large to two small carrots
1 T soy sauce or tamari/shoyu sauce
1. Drain the tofu by placing on a slanted board, or on a board in the sink with a weight (heavy pot or measuring cup) on top of it. Leave the tofu to drain while you prepare the vegetables.
2. Chop the onion coarsely, into pieces of about 1 inch in size. Peel and dice the carrots.
3. In a wok or sauté pan large enough to hold all of the Ingredients, add approximately 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil. When the oil is hot (medium low heat), add the onions and carrots to the pan. Crush the garlic with a garlic press into the vegetables in the pan.
3. Wipe remaining water from the tofu with a paper towel, and dice the tofu into small triangles or squares, of about 1 – 2 inches in length. Add the tofu to the cooking vegetables, stirring to mix well.
4. Continue to cook on medium low heat until the tofu is browned on all sides, then stir in soy sauce and remove from heat.
Serve with rice and a green salad. This is an easy, healthy meal for children, as it can be prepared ahead and reheated.
I have been making this recipe literally for decades – it is pretty much idiot-proof. My own kids always loved it; even the pickiest of eaters seem to enjoy Everyday Tofu with rice.
As an alternative, you can also stir in 4 cups of cooked rice at the end of cooking to make easy fried rice, and of course you can add other vegetables like sliced shiitake or other mushrooms, ginger slices, 1 or more red chillies (to taste), broccoli, red peppers or other vegetables that you may have on hand.