Tofu- Fun to Say and Fun to Eat!

October has flown by here at Food It Yourself HQ. We are almost done winterizing the garden. The chickens are in full molt; we will winterize the coop soon. We are looking forward to some serious jack-o-lantern carving. Since we have been so busy, I have been throwing together a lot of quick dinners lately. Including eggroll bowls. I only bring up the egg roll bowls because I learned a simple trick to make them substantially better: bake the tofu.

Tofu,if you have never encountered it, is coagulated soy protein. Indeed, the process of making tofu from soy milk is very similar to making cheese from animal milk. The Soy Info Center has a lengthy but interesting article on the history of tofu. The important thing to remember about using tofu is that it has almost no flavor, so seasoning it is a must. Baking the tofu after seasoning it concentrates the added flavors and gives the jiggly soy curd a satisfyingly chewy texture. Check this out:

I recommend starting with extra firm tofu, my go-to tofu choice for stir-fry dishes. First, drain the water from the block of tofu (if your tofu was packed in water). Next, remove more water from the bean curd by pressing it under weight. A plate and a few canned goods are handy here, as illustrated. I wrap the tofu in paper towels during this step. If you do not use the paper towels, make sure the tofu is on a dish with a lip to contain the water that is pressed out.. Also, make sure the canned goods are balanced and stable before you walk away. Just trust me on this.

While that happens, mix up a marinade. I used about one quarter cup of black soy sauce and a fat pinch each of garlic powder, onion powder, and five spice powder. Five spice is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, star anise, fennel seed, and clove that really takes your stir-fry game to the next level. You can find it easily on-line, but I recommend a visit to your local Asian market if you are looking to purchase some.

After a 15 minute press, slice the tofu into bite sized bits. Laid out in a single layer on a plate, they will soak up the marinade in just a few minutes. This is the time to pre-heat you oven to 350F.

Lightly oil a baking tray. This is the one slightly tricky part- setting the marinated tofu blocks on a narrow edge. This exposes maximum surface area to the hot air in the oven. Put the tofu in the oven for 15 minutes, then check the texture. The outside should look dry and the edges should be browned. If the tofu is still too damp, give it another 5-10 minutes and check again.

This right here is what you are looking for. The tofu is now ready for your favorite stir-fry. Or just eat them. The flavor variations are almost limitless- just pick a different marinade.

I have built a better eggroll bowl.

What else can baking tofu do? I asked the internet and found some enticing possibilities:

  • Tofu jerky is a thing, evidently. If I am honest, it is a thing I want to try!
  • With the right marinade you can make tofu bacon at home. I especially like that this recipe has a large-quantity option.
  • Using a similar technique, you can make your own tofu-turkey roast, even.

I have been eating tofu since childhood, but this marinade-then-bake technique has really changed the way I view this ancient food. What cooking or food preparation tip did you learn after far too long? Share in the comments!