How to cook Tofu to make it taste good 6 basic tricks
Originally Chinese, tofu (aka Dòu Fu) has been present in Eastern cuisines for more than 2000 years. However, the rise in the world of international gastronomy had to wait until the ’70s; since then, its versatility has made it the most used derivative of all soy products, after “milk”; in fact, given its characteristics, its deserved fame is only expanding.
A real ace of sustainable cooking, without a great environmental impact, as well as being an economic choice, protein-rich and combinable with many different dishes ranging from desserts to main courses.
It has very few calories and saturated fatty acids, practically does not contain cholesterol, while it is rich in some nutrients of great biological value: proteins – complete with all essential amino acids -, mineral salts, vitamins but also omega 3.
But here is the sore point: many people do not like its taste.
I happen to read or listen very often to people’s complaints, fortunately unfounded: “…It’s impossible to appreciate it! …Başak please tell me how to cook tofu to make it taste good… because as it is, I just can’t swallow it .”
I can’t blame them, as on our first few “appointments” I too had difficulty “ingesting” it without grimacing. But then I used some tactics aimed at making me like it; for example learning how to make tofu at home, allowed me to appreciate it without feeling fear or disgust; think that now I even miss it when I don’t eat it for a while!
So I hope that these tricks of mine on how to cook tofu to make it taste better can help you “break the jinx with it”.
How to cook tofu to make it taste better in 6 smart steps
1) Choose the best tofu for your recipe
Before talking about how to make tofu taste better, in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises, you must first understand which tofu you should choose for your recipe.
There are basically 3 types of tofu on the market:
– Silken tofu; since it has the consistency of a spreadable cheese, it is ideal for making creams, fillings, etc., both savory and sweet.
– Solid tofu (firm or extra firm tofu); ideal for cooking in slices, cubes, etc.; its firmness may vary from brand to brand.
– Smoked or flavored tofu; costs a little more than natural tofu, but I can honestly recommend the brand taifun for smoked tofu (especially if you want a flavor that is close to that of salami or sausage); or tofu with olives (which unlike other natural tofu is so good that you can eat it without requiring any treatment).
After buying the right one, now let’s see how to cook tofu to improve its flavor: you will understand that this knowledge will make a significant difference.
2) Learn how to cook tofu
Like any “new” food, even in the case of tofu we need to know its weakness and strength, in order to act appropriately.
The weakness of tofu: the taste; usually people complain that it is tasteless, but for some it is bitter, very bitter!
Remedy: to eliminate this defect, it is necessary to get rid of the liquids that save the bitter taste (due to the coagulant used) retained within the tofu block, so place it between two dish towels, or two-three pieces of paper towels (on each side) and put it between two cutting boards / plates. Now create a weight: a glass bottle will be fine (and so on).
If the result still does not satisfy you, don’t worry; there is another trick to be played: boil it for about ten minutes in a nicely flavored vegetable broth, before pressing. After that, a marinade would be definitely advisable.
3) Make a marinade
Strength of tofu: tofu has the characteristic of absorbing flavors, upon simple contact with aromatic foods.
How to accentuate its strength: it is simple, thanks to a good marinade; garlic and/or onion; aromatic herbs such as laurel, thyme, marjoram, oregano etc.; but also character spices such as garam masala, curry, cumin, coriander and similar; soaked in olive oil, and/or yogurt and/or soy sauce and/or, tamari and/or shoyu; tomato puree and/or red or white wine and/or lemon or orange juice. As a rule, in order to work well, the marinade must be done after pressing, as it would be impossible for tofu to absorb further liquids when it is already saturated. In order not to risk food poisoning, marinating should be done in the fridge and should last at least 1-2 hours, up to 12-24 hours. I usually prepare the marinade for my in the morning, then I put it in the fridge; in the evening, half an hour before dinner, I take it out and then cook it.
Simple tricks that will reconcile you with tofu; however, to guarantee total satisfaction, I would say that following a few truly proven recipes, at least for the first few times, will come in very handy.
4) Rely on tested recipes
To make the most of it I recommend the vegan kokorec, spicy and delicious: you will not even realize you are eating tofu, highly recommended for skeptics. The vegetarian kebab to be prepared with marinated tofu (you won’t believe your eyes and palate); while if you are at a more advanced level of appreciation, then this recipe for tofu sticks stuffed with carrot puree and mozzarella cheese, will finally make you a tofu lover.
Again, just to remember that, none of the steps just described are necessary; consider that tofu can even be eaten raw; I’m just suggesting specific ways to eliminate what bothers you about tofu.
5) Finally, I recommend that you persevere with patience and dedication
Perhaps the fault is not only of the tofu, but also ours, as we are not all good at embracing novelties in the same way; I am aware that to define as new a 2000 years old food is a bit absurd… Of course I am referring to the ability of each of us to appreciate culinary novelties: while for some people love at first bite, for others more “neophobic” – I did not invent it, there really is a discomfort called “food neophobia” -, due to which the bite becomes bitter, if not poisonous.
Fortunately, you can get used to appreciate – almost – everything, with a long series of experiments and a lot of courage, of course: if I learned to love cilantro and my husband onions, I am sure you can do the same with tofu; think that there are those who even love blue cheese!
And then quality tofu does not taste bad: clearly I am not referring to highly industrial and/or shoddy products; at most we can say that good tofu has no distinct flavor, or perhaps nothing to “cause perplexity”.
The important thing is to make a sufficient number of attempts, necessary for the formation of a new path for the ‘biochemical reward‘, between the sight of tofu and the magic labyrinths of your brain.
6) And don’t forget that tofu is not a ‘weird’ food
In tofu there are no strange things or absurd procedures indeed, talking about the method of production it would not be wrong to call tofu ‘the fresh cheese of soy milk’.
Homemade ricotta cheese, for example, is obtained by heating cow’s milk and then curdling it with vegetable rennet; once the waiting time for the whey to run out is over, it is pressed in a mold (fuscella) for some tens of minutes and ricotta cheese is obtained.
Tofu is produced in the same way: heated soy milk is curdled with a coagulant (not of animal origin), poured and pressed more or less for the same amount of time; finally tofu will be obtained.
Moreover, if you really want to appreciate its taste, you must also recognize the fact that vacuum-packed tofu, bought from the supermarket with a very long expiry date, in contact with plastic wrapping, cannot have anything to do with fresh tofu, homemade with quality ingredients.
Can we say that ricotta bought fresh from the producer is equal to the packaged one, on sale in supermarkets? The answer is obviously no! So give another chance to the poor battered tofu, it will surprise you with its neutral flavor, eager to “make friends with those who have more character”; without any aftertaste of paper, plastic or even fuel oil (I have heard of someone even complaining about this “peculiarity”).
In order to make tofu at home you have two options:
You can start from the genesis, that is, using soy beans, making soy milk (drink) first (see here a tested recipe); or you can start from a bought soy drink. In the second case, try to choose a product that has a percentage of fat higher than 2% and protein higher than 3%: this is because coagulation occurs mainly with the precipitation of proteins, but also of fats. And remember, starting from ready made milk is undoubtedly faster, but it does not always give the desired results.
The full article on how to prepare tofu at home can be found here.
And now strength and courage, I await your experiences and your suggestions: you too can help those who do not know how to replace meat, offering valid and tested alternatives.
Good revolution to all