(Wo)Man Vs. Tofu

August 12, 2008 at 3:14 pm 8 comments

Soy.  As long as you’re not allergic, is it evidently the best miracle food since… whatever last month’s miracle food was.  While I am not a vegetarian, I am a bit of a crazy health nut, and if I can eat a food that lets me save a cow, GREAT!  I’ve done the soymilk (or as Lewis Black aptly declares, “soyJUICE”), and while I didn’t hate it, I’ll stick with good old-fashioned cow-boobie milk, thank you.  Edamame was great.  Tofu was my last major unexplored soy frontier.  As you know, Ian and I recently went to the farmer’s market, and CLEANED UP.  I was dying to make a stir-fry, and I says to myself, “Self,” I says, “this is the perfect opportunity to meet tofu.”  So on my next trip to the grocery, I hunted down what looked to be the ideal candidate:  organic, extra firm, “Chinese Spice” flavored.


I got home and opened the package.  As I found myself eye-to-eye with a swimming, slimy, Sponge Bob Square Pants creature in serious need of some exposure to daylight, my thoughts now became something more like, “Errrmmmm……. now what?”  Google that shit.  (Thanks Dane Cook – you’re my hero.)  Here is what I quickly discovered:  Tofu is a pain in the ass.  Why does no one ever mention that??!?  Open it, drain it, squeeze it for 15 minutes, slice it, pat it, dry-fry it, marinate it…  THEN it may actually be edible.  I got a kick out of one website mentioning that kids will eat tofu right out of the package.  I figured if kids will eat it, how bad can it be?  After all, I got a pre-flavored version, so maybe I can skip some of those steps.  I tried a bite.  Ok, DON’T DO THAT.  Oh my god, I had to go rinse with Listerine to get the taste out of my mouth.  Well, too late to turn back now.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 


I was intimidated by vegetarian accounts of slimy, tasteless, restaurant tofu experiences, and was determined not to replicate those mistakes.  These were the guides I followed:  savvyvegetarian, hubpages, cooks.com, and youtube.  Prepping the tofu was an hour and fifteen minute extravaganza, and I still had to prepare the rest of the stir-fry!!  I have to admit, the tofu smelled really good while it was frying… a little like pancakes.  Actually, it kind of looks like pancakes as it turns golden brown.  (Resist the temptation to take a bite.  Trust me.)  At long, long last, I had the tofu marinating in a blend of balsamic vinegar, ground mustard, minced garlic, onion powder, ginger, a dash of salt and pepper, and ¼ cup of brown sugar, while I proceeded to the relative simplicity of chopping, seasoning, and sautéing the veg.  It hadn’t occurred to me to pick up any chow mein noodles or rice (der), but I discovered some whole wheat spaghetti hiding out in the cabinet.  What the hell… noodles is noodles, right?  Miraculously, the timing of this whole three-ring-circus turned out perfectly once the tofu was in a submission hold in the marinade, and as I dumped the sponge-now-masquerading-as-meat into the frying pan, I prayed just one quick Hail Mary that this whole food triathlon would not be a total loss.


As husband looked on skeptically (and who could blame him?), the items from the pans were loaded onto plates, and suddenly looked surprisingly like, well, food.  Smelled good, too.  As I took a cautious bit from a fork loaded with noodles, beans, peas, and a bite o’ the ‘fu, my eyes, which I realized I had painfully squeezed shut, began to relax, then open in surprise.  I looked across the table to see what must have been a mirror expression on Ian’s face.  This was… edible!           VICTORY!!  I would have done a little celebratory funky chicken, but by this time, I was starving and couldn’t be stopped. 


So how was it?  Honestly, on a scale of 1-10, it might have been about a 6, but I am exceedingly  proud of this accomplishment!  I actually think I did a pretty good job with the tofu, although I didn’t have any experts available for confirmation.  On the other hand, I would have liked some soy in my marinade; I forgot to add pineapples to the stir-fry; and rice might have been a better complement (although the whole wheat noodles weren’t bad).  My first reaction was that I could not see attempting this again, when god has seen fit to give me chickens.  Having had a few days to reflect, however, I find time has somewhat dulled the memory of the stress involved.  In my efforts to green my life, I like the idea that I can occasionally spare the life of a creature.  I also believe that there MUST be easier ways to prepare tofu, or it could not possibly have gained its current popularity.  I don’t know ANYONE, vegetarian or otherwise, who has an hour a night to prepare dinner.  Plus, I’m stubborn, and I don’t like the idea of being defeated by a lump of… of… squish.  So I shall probably try again. 


Help me out here, people.  What’s your favorite tofu prep?  Use small words please, because while I may turn out to be a prodigy, I’m still in the remedial cooking class!


All my love, Kristy

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LMGM  |  August 13, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Hey kiddo,

    Yes, tofu prep can been laborious at times, but there are shortcuts:

    – When you buy your tofu, toss it in the freezer and then pull it out a few hours before you’re going to cook it, unwrap it and leave it on a saucer to thaw (or run warm water over it). This will squeeze out a lot of the water in the tofu and save you from the ages of squeezing and patting and so on
    – Marinate in the pan. Dry-fry the tofu until it’s firm and a bit browned, then dump the marinade in the pan cook until the marinade has reduced to a sauce. By then, the tofu should’ve absorbed a lot of the marinade as well.
    – Fry on high heat with a bit of oil. This allows you to bypass pretty much all preparation. just remove from package, slice, and toss into a pan on high heat with a fair bit of vegetable oil. You’ll need to constantly keep the pan moving, though, as the tofu will stick easily. Also, you’ll want to drain out the oil or add the other veggies as soon as the tofu is firm, otherwise it’ll start absorbing the oil.


  • 2. averagegoddess  |  August 14, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Love it! That last option is more what I had in mind: dump, cook, eat. The websites just freaked me out! I can always count on you.

  • 3. PaintandSoul  |  August 15, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Hmmm, when I eat tofu it’s generally in miso soup already. 😀 You know well my reticence to attempt to cook something complex and time consuming. I have purchased firm tofu before however, and I really enjoyed it after cooking it with some other meat in a skillet. I don’t remember exactly what I did though. I do remember the horror on my boyfriends’ face…..

  • 4. averagegoddess  |  August 15, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Cooking it WITH meat?? Isn’t that cheating?

  • 5. Meredith (LitC!)  |  August 15, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    to me? Tofu = fear. *lol* I’ll prob. stick with Edamame and leave it at that. 😉

  • 6. averagegoddess  |  August 16, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Well, can’t say as I blame you… I hardly gave it a ringing endorsement! I’d certainly take a great edamame recipe if you have one though!

  • 7. Carolyn  |  January 11, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I love Luis’s tips. We actually froze our tofu by mistake, and it ended up being the best tofu we’d ever made. I love tofu! It takes a little time and effort to learn how to use it, but it’s definitely worth it! 🙂

  • 8. averagegoddess  |  January 13, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Does that mean I should give it another go? I admit, I haven’t tried it since… 😯


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