Oh tofu. To think that for years I thought you were just a useless off-white blob with no flavour or substance, but I have been drawn in by your charms. Ok, so it starts as an off-white blob with very little flavour, but that’s part of the tofu magic. Beef tastes of beef, chicken tastes of people, lamb tastes of fluffy woolly critters frolicking in a spring meadow, but tofu can taste of anything you damn well please. It’s a customisable dish! Pretty much.
I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, but I enjoy variety and meat can be bloody expensive. It’s far more economical (and healthy…) to get as much of your nutritional needs as possible from fruit, vegetables, oils and whole grains, but humans also need protein. Lentils and other legumes are fine and very tasty with the right recipes and a bit of creativity, but tofu has something a little more special. It has a wonderful habit of absorbing the flavours you’re cooking with so you can make delicious protein-filled nuggets of wonder. Tofu is also low in fat, low-calorie, high in protein and high in iron. All of that good stuff.
I cooked with tofu tonight, and I’m going to share my favourite healthy-ish recipe with you. It’s very simple and takes no time at all to prepare, but it’ll easily satisfy two people and it’s pretty righteous too:
Oh The Burning, The Burning Is Love, Ow My Mouth Noodles (with Tofu):
- 2 bundles/servings of noodles. I like Clearsping organic udon, personally. I find that fully whole wheat noodles can disintegrate and are better suited for cold dishes (omg cold soba… nyom…) but semi whole wheat udon is a little more resilient.
- 1 red onion, chopped.
- 1/4 savoy cabbage, roughly chopped.
- 2 carrots, sliced.
- 4 spring onions, chopped.
- 150g tofu, drained and pressed.
- About 1 tbsp of grated or finely chopped ginger.
For the awesome sauce of awesome:
- 2 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine).
- 2 tbsp soy sauce.
- 2 tbsp hot chili sauce (I’m on a Sriracha kick at the minute so I use that, but any old chili sauce will do).
- 1 tbsp water.
NOW IT’S TIME FOR MAGIC!
1. To begin with you need to prepare your tofu for cooking. Pat it down with some kitchen roll and slice. Place the slices on top of a layer of kitchen roll on a chopping board, add another layer of kitchen roll, then place either another chopping board or a baking tray (anything flat and large enough to cover your tofu slices) and weigh it down with a heavy pot or book. I like to use a copy of The Oxford Companion to the Photograph because it’s just the right size and a good weight. It’s also an interesting book to flick through, which is handy. Leave the tofu to be squished for at least ten minutes. The more you leave it the more water will be squeezed out and the firmer the texture will be.
2. While that’s happening chop your vegetables and make your sauce. Keep the sauce to one side for now and stir it well.
3. Once your tofu has been squished enough, heat about 1 tbsp sesame oil in a wok or frying pan. Either chop the tofu some more (I like to make little squares of about 2cm) or throw it into the pan as it is. Cook the tofu until it turns golden brown.
4. While the tofu is browning start cooking the noodles according to the instructions on whatever manufacturer’s packaging you’re using.
5. Add the ginger to the pan with the tofu and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the vegetables (except the spring onions) and keep things moving so you don’t end up with burnt bits. Cook until the carrots start to go tender.
6. Drain your noodles once they’re cooked. Add the cooked vegetable and tofu mixture to the noodle pan, and toss everything together with the sauce. If you’re lucky enough to have an operational wok, just add the noodles to that. Once the sauce thickens a bit, remove from the heat and serve. Sprinkle the spring onions on top as a delicious garnish.
I was planning to take some photos to accompany this entry, but unfortunately my hunger made me impatient. I can tell you that it looks very pretty with all of the different colours from the vegetables and spicy sauce, and it tastes even better, but I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.