Like a lot of people out there, I grew up hating tofu. I had been scarred by the infamous “tofurkey” until I moved to Asia and experienced all the different ways that it could be properly prepared. Personally, I think any time tofu tries to masquerade as real meat is where it all goes wrong.
So when you are ready to take the plunge and try tofu that even an avid carnivore could appreciate, start here with fried salt and pepper tofu. Pan-fried firm (or better, extra firm) tofu is the gateway drug to the land of tofu. Do not buy soft tofu for this recipe – the block should come from the refrigerated section near the vegetables, and once cut out of the package should be a solid, firm block resembling feta cheese and not at all jiggly like a block of jello.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of firm tofu, you can try your hand at some soft tofu recipes – but the use will be very different. For a taste, try Mapo Tofu next time you get Chinese.
- 14oz/397g block of extra firm firm tofu
- plenty of oil (of choice)
- black and white pepper
- coriander leaves/cilantro
- heaped teaspoon of black bean sauce
- ~10oz/283g noodles of choice (egg, udon, etc)
- shredded carrots
- snow peas
- water chestnuts
- leeks or green onions
- Chinese greens (bok choi, etc)
- Drain the tofu and pat try as far as possible with a paper towel. Then cut into either 1-2cm cubes or 1cm thick rectangles.
- Season the wok by spraying it lightly with cooking spray and heat it until warmed/just smoking. Then add the cooking oil.
- Turn heat down slightly and CAREFULLY put the tofu into the hot oil with a spatula or a spoon with a long handle. Dust with salt and pepper and let it fry for 3-5 minutes.
- Stir/flip the pieces of tofu around, dust with salt and peppers again. Continue flipping and dusting until the tofu is golden on all sides - about 15-20min total.
- Meanwhile, boil water and cook the noodles according to package directions and chop/slice/shred the vegetables.
- Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon or spatula and place in a bowl on a piece of paper towel to drain the excess oil.
- Remove wok from the heat and add the black bean sauce to the leftover oil. Stir, dump in all the vegetables and return to the heat, stirring repeatedly for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked to your preferred tenderness.
- To plate, pile the noodles first, followed by the veggies and then top with the tofu and some chopped coriander/cilantro.