Friday, January 28, 2011

Tofu Hoisin

So many people do not like tofu. Perhaps for meat-eaters, its that they know its not meat. For others maybe they've tried it plain (yuck!). If you've never had tofu made the right way, then it really isn't that good.

Tofu is packed full of healthy, vegetable protein. I once heard tofu referred to as the "culinary chameleon". It really is; it picks up the flavor of whatever you are cooking it with. That is the key to tofu -- it has to be cooked with something. It can replace almost any meat. At my favorite Chinese restaurant, House of Taipei, I get the lettuce wraps with tofu instead of chicken. They are delicious, and other than the texture I really cannot tell the difference. For those of you who don't know, I haven't always been vegetarian, so I am very familiar with the texture and flavor of meat. :)

Tofu comes in two main textures -- silken and firm. There are varying degrees of texture within those two categories. The silken tofu is great for using in desserts or to puree for recipes where you need the tofu as a filler or to add bulk. The firm variety is what you use for frying, baking, crumbling, cubing, scrambling, etc. For this recipe, I used an extra-firm tofu that was already cubed.

Frequently when I make something I will look at several other recipes, toss them all aside and create a combination of the recipes I saw and come up with something similar, but my own. This is not one of those recipes. For this dish, I just tossed things together that sounded good. And it was good!

As always you want to start by having all of your ingredients handy.
  • Extra-firm tofu
  • Soy sauce
  • ginger root
  • garlic cloves
  • sesame seeds
  • hoisin sauce
  • rice vinegar (not pictured)
  • liquid smoke
  • sesame seed oil
  • sugar
 Drain your tofu and place it on paper towels or a dish towel and then cover it with the same. You want as much of the moisture out of your tofu as possible so it can pick up the flavor of whatever you are marinating it in. In this case, my special hoisin sauce.
You'll want to place something heavy on top of your tofu to press the water out of it. I used a cast iron skillet. I think the only thing heavier in my kitchen is me, and I doubt the tofu would fair well under my feet. ;)

While you're pressing your tofu, mix up your marinade. I apologize for not having pictures of all the steps, but I trust that you have an imagination.
Peel your ginger root and garlic and finely chop them up. See how pretty my nails are? By some miracle they have grown and I have managed to not break them yet. So I painted them red last night and have been enjoying how long and pretty my fingers look today.  Anyyyyyyway.

Next add all of your other ingredients: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, liquid smoke, sugar, and crushed red pepper, and sesame seed oil. You might want to put these in a bowl rather than just pouring them out on your counter. That's what I did, but since there is no photographic evidence of this fact, I thought I'd just mention that little tip.

Speaking of tips, to remove the garlic smell from your hands after chopping garlic, wet your hands and rub them all over something stainless steel. I use my faucet. You can use your refrigerator door if that's all you have, but I don't recommend it because then you're going to have to wipe it off. Anyway, it works. Also works to remove any other funky scents on your hands usually. Its amazing.

Ok, so toss your dry(ish) tofu into all but 1/8 cup of marinade and just let it sit for about 30 minutes. Toss it around a few times to make sure everything remains coated. I marinate it in the same dish I'm going to bake it in because I don't like doing dishes. Well my mom and I actually have this deal that whichever one of us cooks, the other does the dishes. It works out really well because I'd rather cook and I think a lot of times, she'd rather do the dishes.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or whenever all of your sauce is soaked up and drying up and your tofu is shrinking and not wet. Really I'm totally guessing here because I didn't pay attention to the time at all, but it was about 45 minutes.

While that's baking, toast your sesame seeds. You don't need as many as I show.

Remember that 1/8 cup of sauce I said to not include with the tofu? Mix in a little bit of cornstarch to thicken it up or just use as-is to drizzle over tofu or rice or steamed broccoli or whatever you feel like. Serve Tofu Hoisin with eggrolls and sticky rice. I turned mine into a lettuce wrap.

And as Jesus said when He created the world, "It was good."

Due to my vague directions I should probably give you a recipe.

Tofu Hoisin
2 packages extra firm tofu, cubed small
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
1/4 tsp finely chopped ginger root
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Drain and press tofu to get as much water out as possible. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes.
Whisk together all ingredients EXCEPT tofu and sesame seeds. Set aside 1/8 cup of marinade and toss the tofu with the rest. Let marinate for at least 25 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 min or until marinade is absorbed and tofu is shrinking and no longer wet to touch. Use 1/8 cup of marinade that was set aside to drizzle over tofu. Add cornstarch to thicken if desired. Serve on rice or with lettuce as a lettuce wrap, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Make it a Meal!
Sticky rice
Steamed broccoli
Egg roll or spring roll

Healthier substitutions
Use liquid aminos instead of soy sauce for lower sodium
Use Splenda (3 tbsp) or agave nectar (1 1/3 tbsp) or Stevia (1 tsp) to replace sugar

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