Since I started a healthy diet regime about ten years ago, I’ve always been on the look out for new recipes. One of my friends told me that healthy and tasty can not be used to describe the same food. I don’t agree with this, but I have to admit that if one wants to eat healthily, one’s choice of food is rather limited, and it is not easy to have tasty food if one insist on low fat, low calorie, low salt, low cholesterol ingredients. Beans are one of the few food items that fit in this restrictive diet regime. Among them, tofu is often used. However tofu has some intrinsic weaknesses according to my own experience with it: it doesn’t have a ready texture; it doesn’t have much taste by itself; it doesn’t absorb the flavor as readily as other food items. Due to these commonly perceived defects, tofu is disliked by many.
Another reason people dislike it is because there’s a learning curve involved in cooking tofu. When I was growing up, we didn’t eat tofu at all since my mother disliked it. When I started to cook for myself, I spent a long time experimenting different methods of cooking it to make it more flavorful. I failed many times. Since I am a person who refuses to throw away food, I end up eating my own awful experimental results. Needless to say, such a method of forcing tofu down one’s own throat is not the best way to promote endearing feelings. So after each failed experiment, there’s always a period of tofu avoidance, usually about two or three months. Then my spirit perks up again and a new round of tofu adventure starts.
So far I have accumulated several easy tofu recipes. My favorite recipes are always easy recipes. I know several tofu experts who would always tell me that the ideal way to cook tofu is simmering it in your favorite sauce for a long period of time–overnight preferred. However my life is not ideal and I opt for quicker procedures.
Also I forgot to mention that some tofu experts insist that tofu needs to be pre-cooked or pre-processed before the real cooking starts. Usually it is in the form of throwing tofu into a pot of boiling water, or roll it in a thin layer of batter, which is made of flour and egg. I actually tried these pre-cooking methods, but I don’t see the difference in taste. There’s probably a difference, but not too much difference. So I have decided to skip the pre-cooking steps to keep things quick and easy.
Another thing that the tofu experts often tell me is that homemade tofu is the best, but I haven’t been able to do it after trying it ten times in the last ten years. One or two of my friends highly recommend the brand “House Foods”, but I prefer Trader Joe’s organic tofu. Trader Joe’s has several kinds of tofu. The one in a plastic container with a red cover is the best.
Here are my easy recipes:
Sloppy Joe Tofu
Cut tofu into small cubes. I usually do 1/3 inch cubes (about 1 cm) or even smaller. Then I put it on a flat dish and microwave on high for two to three minutes. There will be water coming out of tofu. Discard the water and add dark soy sauce–it has to be the really dark soy sauce that can almost stain your hands. Here you can add any sauce you desire as long as it has a strong flavor. For example, the teriyaki sauce or oyster sauce or the Korean obok chunjang sauce. If the sauce is too thick, you want to dilute it with a little bit of chicken stock or water first. After mixing tofu with the sauce, return it to the microwave for three to four minutes on high. That’s done. So easy.
This is not really a slice of tofu between two pieces of bread. That’s not it. It’s actually adding a slice of pan fried tofu into one’s favorite sandwich to replace half of the meat content. This way one can eat less meat and more beans. The way to prepare this slice of tofu is easy. One can just cut tofu into flat pieces about 1/3 of inch thick and pan fry it. One can add a little soy sauce after the pan frying.
There are several ways of doing the tofu jelly. The most traditional way is using gypsum or nigari, both are available from Amazon. However the fat and protein content in most of the commercial brand of soymilk is not high enough to make the procedure successful. After trying it half a dozen times without any success, I have given it up. Now I use two methods with no nigari or gypsum.
The first method is just like the process of making jello–instead of using fruit juice, one uses soymilk. It is very easy to make.
The second method is using soymilk and eggs. I usually use 250ml of soymilk. Heat it until it is still OK to put your figure in the soymilk without getting burned. That’s about 50 degree Celsius. I take two large eggs. Since eating two yolks a day is unhealthy, I usually just use one yolk. Whisk the eggs until the yolk and whites are combined. Add half a teaspoon of salt. Here the salt is necessary for the coagulation and without it, it is not going to work. Add the salt and whisk the eggs more before mixing it with the soymilk. Put the mixture in a ceramic ball and steam it. However steam should be very low and the boiling water should be hardly boiling. If the steam is too much, it is not going to work. Steam for twenty minutes on very low steam–the water should be hardly bubbling.