Tofu is such a simple ingredient, but it’s a hard one for people to make deliciously at home. I know I’ve had my fair share of bland, mushy hunks of tofu in stir fries and sandwiches–especially during my hippie college days. Here’s the easiest way to make it crave-worthy delicious: fry it! I know frying is still pretty much thought of as evil and unhealthy, but I think we all know about good vs. bad fats these days, and also that it’s not necessarily fat that’s making our society fat. If you eat fried foods in moderation and stick to heart-healthy oils (and I seriously doubt you’d fry up tofu in some lard, anyway) I think you’ll find that tofu really is a great non-meat protein.
Start with some good quality firm tofu. I love the local brand pictured above, which has a little more fermented funk to it, but just about any store-bought variety will do just fine. If you have time, press it between a bunch of paper towels or two clean dish towels with a light weight for an hour or so, of if you don’t have time just blot it dry (or use a tofu press–totally great.) Cut it into cubes and season with a teaspoon or two of soy sauce (use it like salt–it shouldn’t be swimming!). Heat about 2 inches of canola oil in a medium pot to 375 degrees. Toss the tofu cubes with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or water chestnut powder, shake off excess and lower a batch into the hot oil, being sure not to crowd the pan. Move it around a little so it browns evenly and doesn’t stick together too much. When it tops bubbling so furiously and is golden and dry-looking, remove from the oil and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Return oil to 375 (check the temp, because it will have gone down a lot from the first batch.) Repeat with remaining tofu.
Fried tofu tastes great just straight up with a dipping sauce (you could even cut it into “fries” if you wanted.) It’s also delicious added to stir fries or noodle dishes. One of my kids’ most favorite meals is stir-fried noodles with fried tofu and vegetables (pictured below–sorry for the iPhone pic.) Seriously, they go crazy for it. I also love fried tofu and fried eggplant (done in the same way with soy and cornstarch) with a sweet and spicy sauce.
One more thing–if you want to get serious about frying at home, you don’t need a fancy fryer or frying pot. What will make your life easier, however, is a good slotted spoon like this “spider” strainer. Also, save your oil! After just one pound of tofu, your oil will be fine for at least one more frying. Cool it to room temp and strain it into a jar. Refrigerate until next time, which won’t be far off, trust me!