Cooking with tofu can be a daunting struggle if you aren't used to it.
The blocks of bean curd can be meaty and delicious at restaurants, but for newcomers to this traditonal soy-bean staple, slimy fall-apart disasters at home.
This absurdly simple two-step hack will change all that forever. It will turn any type of tofu into a tougher, firmer, more densely textured ingredient.
Here are the steps:
1) Freeze the tofu
2) Unfreeze the tofu
We told you it was simple.
The process of freezing tofu has a permanent effect on the solubility of the proteins in tofu, meaning the tofu itself holds less liquid and is less ‘slimy’ when thawed.
Instead, it’s spongier and tougher – meaning you may want to squeeze out the excess liquid once it’s thawed out.
Thawed tofu makes for an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians, and you can fry it up straight away for with some salt for a healthy snack or as a replacement hamburger pattie.
Your tofu will probably go yellow or brown once it’s frozen, but don’t panic, it will return to it’s usual colour once you thaw it out so no one will know your secret.
According to researchers, the process of freezing the tofu before cooking can have more of an impact on the taste and texture of the tofu than the cooking process itself.
In what must be one of our favourite studies of all time, scientists in Korea measured the “effect of freezing of soybeans on sensory characteristics of tofu.” They assembled a ten-person panel to assess “colour, flavour, mouthfeel [and] overall acceptability”.
“Freezing enhances some textural parameters of tofu such as hardness, springiness, gumminess and chewiness,” the researchers noted. Proteins became more "hyrdrophobic" and repelled water molecules, leading to a drier product.
It also reduces cooking time by half, as shown by a seminal work of tofu research in 1992.
Once it’s thawed you can use the tofu just like chicken, or in many of these awesome tofu recipes.
Or - for the easiest salt-and-pepper tofu ever – squeeze and drain the thawed blocks, cut into cubes then toss in flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, and bake for 15 minutes.
In Indonesia, they have a particular ‘thing’ for tofu and versions of tahu goreng abound. “Goreng” simply means “fried’ and fried tofu can be sauced in many different ways. This sweet-tangy peanut-based concoction is particularly delicious; by using peanut butter and a food processor (in Indonesia they’d traditionally start by deep-frying peanuts then pound everything in a mortar), this dish becomes incredibly quick to make.
As a vegetarian, there are some things that are tricky to find good substitutes for. One of those, for me, is noodle soup or ramen. The broth in restaurants is often made with meat or bones, so I was super excited to make something at home that I knew would be healthy, delicious and meat-free (even vegan!).
Traditionally made with beef or pork, this vegetarian mapo tofu is spicy, beautifully textured and lands with a punchy umami hit. Adjust the chilli heat to suit your own taste and add a pinch of white sugar in true Chinese style.
This Thai Yai/Shan dish for sale all over Mae Hong Son combines ingredients essential to virtually every local dish: soybeans (in the form of tofu and thua nao, disks of dried soybean), garlic, tomatoes and turmeric. Use small, slightly sour tomatoes if you can and the firmest tofu you can find.
Japanese people prefer hamburgers to have a light and fluffy (or “fuwa-fuwa”) texture, rather than meaty and dense. Adding tofu to the burger in this recipe achieves this without the need for breadcrumbs, and the nuttiness of the tofu is a great match for the light and refreshing ponzu sauce that accompanies this dish.