People, I can not stop eating this. Every week I tell myself to skip the tofu section. When that fails, I try to convince myself to try a new marinade, something different, maybe something tomato-based, or possibly lemongrass-inspired. Finally, when it comes to it, and the jiggly, wiggly block of vauge off-whiteness is sitting before me on my kitchen counter, I crumble.
Out comes the soy sauce, the ginger, the garlic, the hot red pepper, and the toasted sesame oil. In goes the tofu, where it will marinate overnight, and eventually wind up in my cast iron pan, browned and lovely, slightly firm, but still soft and spongy beneath its outer layer. I'll inevitably eat it over a bowl of brown basmati rice, my other current favorite. Something green, like Hilah Cooking's Garlic Sesame Kale or Quick Pickled Bok Choy Salad will find its way into the bowl too. I'll sit down, breath deeply, then dig in.
I know it sounds a little far-fetched, someone being obsessed with tofu. It's not exactly popular, but lately I've been feeling like maybe it's been a little over-looked. Tofu has a bad wrap. It's touted as tasteless and mushy, when in reality, it soaks up flavor like a champ, and is an absolute texture chameleon. You can grill it, fry it, mince it, or mold it into whatever you want it to be. Tofu, my dear friends, is the bee's knees.
It wasn't until I found myself in a moment of vegetarian desperation that I gave it a fresh try. I was so tired of vegetables that day. I just wanted to sink my teeth into something different. There was tofu, so I gave her a shot. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not at all as bad as I remembered. In fact, it was almost good. Almost. I still suspected that the red curry the tofu was drowned in was solely responsible for the word "good" coming to mind. But still, my suspicions had been peaked.
Later, I saw an incredibly beautiful plate of tofu featured on Alexandra's Kitchen. Her recipe for Sesame-Crusted Tofu had me bamboozled. Tofu had never looked so good. A plate of Tofu Mexicana at a local vegetarian joint in town sent me over the edge. Later that week I picked up a package of hard tofu, and I never looked back.
Now I'll scream it from the hills. "I love tofu! And I don't care WHO knows it!"
(Especially when it's been soaking in a bath of sweet and spicy ginger garlic sauce.)
Ginger Garlic Tofu
Makes sixteen ounces (two to four servings)
- 1 16-ounce package of hard/firm tofu
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dashi or cold water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced/grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced/grated daikon radish(optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Remove the tofu from its package. Slice the tofu into smaller blocks. One half inch by 2 inches is a nice size. Drain the blocks on clean kitchen towels or paper towels.
- Combine the sugar and hot water and mix until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Combine the sugar-water with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl or container, just big enough to fit the tofu.
- Place the tofu in the container, followed by the marinade. Soak for at least four hours, ideally overnight.
- Remove the tofu from the marinade, then fry, grill, or steam as desired.
I like to saute this tofu in a cast iron skillet, frying it in a little bit of oil until it becomes dark and crusty on both sides. I often eat it with a bowl of brown rice and vegetables. The sauted tofu can also be put on banh mi sandwhiches, in noodle bowls, or fried in tempura.
To make a sauce from the marinade, pour it into the hot skillet after you finish cooking the tofu. Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with a little bit of cold water, forming a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the marinade after it starts bubbling. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it becomes thick and slightly clear. Pour a little of the sauce over the tofu, then sprinkle it with scallions, sesame seeds, and maybe even a few bonito flakes.