My new year's resoution this year was to eat more tofu, and in doing so, I naturally started to cook more tofu.
It's always been a little mysterious to me. What even is tofu anyway? Luckily a quick Google search for "What is tofu?" clears that right up. Just 3 oz of tofu contains 7g of protein and only 4g of fat.
The first time I made tofu, I used Bon Appetit's recipe for Spicy Braised Tofu. I loved that this recipe was for braising, one of my favorite and most-used cooking methods.
Although fried tofu is delicous, I don't like to eat too many fried foods, not just because it's less healthy, but because it's more time consuming. Cleaning up oil splatter around a stove burner is the worst, and discarding frying oil is the second worst.
Luckily, I love braised tofu. Remember, the two primary steps of braising are:
1) Sear the [tofu]
2) Simmer it in liquid.
Additionally, tofu benefits from being pressed between kitchen towels prior to cooking in order to release its liquid and sear nicely. This step is really easy and pretty fun too, so don't let it deter you from making tofu. You can just leave it in the towel while you prepeare your vegetables.
Tofu's neutral taste makes it an excellent canvas for bold flavors, just like in hot and sour soup. The main heat sources are spicy peppers and gochujang. I find jalapeños to be the most easily accessible hot pepper, but Serranos would be really excellent and make the dish even spicier.
The primary sour sources are lime juice and rice vinegar, though gochujang is also a bit sour from being a fermented chili paste. Additional salty flavor is added via miso paste and soy sauce.
1 Block of firm or extra firm tofu
1 cup of sliced baby Bella and/or shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup of sliced carrots
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 scallions, sliced, whites and green separated
1.5 Tb gochujang
1.5 Tb white miso paste
The juice of 1 lime
1/2 Tb soy sauce
1Tb rice vinegar
1 tsp sake
Olive oil and sesame oil, for sautéing
Salt, pepper, black garlic if you have it.
Chopped herbs such as cilantro, basil, or mint
Rice for serving
- Make rice.
- Wrap the block of tofu in a kitchen towel and place a heavy pan over it for approximately 10 minutes.
While your tofu's liquid is being extracted, prepare your vegetables as stated above.
- Make your simmering liquid by combining the gochujang, lime juice, rice vinegar, miso paste, soy sauce, and sake, if using, with 1/2 cup of water. Set it aside.
- Cut tofu twice length wise, so you have 3 thin, flat slabs of tofu. Then cut them 3 times crosswise in both directions to make cubes.
- Heat 2Tb olive oil and a drop of sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, arrange tofu in an even layer in the pan. Cook for at least 2 minutes undisturbed, or until the bottom of the tofu becomes lightly browned. Flip each piece, season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of black garlic if using, and cook for 1-2 minutes on the second side. Remove from pan and place on a plate to the side
- Add more olive oil to the pan if most of it was soaked up by the tofu and add the carrots and scallion whites. Sauté for 3 minutes until carrots start to soften. Add the mushrooms and peppers and sauté for 3 minutes longer, until mushrooms start to soften and take on color as well.
- Add the hot and sour sauce and allow it to deglaze the pan for about 1 minute. Then stir in the tofu and scallion greens. Cook until most of the liquid has reduced and the tofu and vegetables are coated in sauce.
Serve over rice topped with fresh herbs.
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