Let’s Talk Tofu: Tofu Stir-Fry

Let’s talk tofu. For me, tofu is this amazing and versatile protein source. And, lately I have been forcing it upon my family more and more. My 12 year old daughter loves it! My 4 year old son doesn’t eat what we eat anyway and my husband, well, let’s just say he is ‘surviving.’

My favorite tofu dish is stir-fry because it is versatile, quick and easy. And, all tofu stir-fries, or mine at least, start with the same base and then the rest is dictated by what sauces and veggies I have on hand.

But, before getting into the recipe, let’s talk. In case you didn’t know, not all tofu is created equally. For example, there is silken, firm, extra firm, super firm and sprouted. While this may go against what most tofu gurus agree with, I love extra firm silken tofu for my stir-fries. My favorite brand is Morinaga. It is inexpensive, has a long shelf life and a much more delicate flavor than the firm varieties packed in water.

So, if you are anti-tofu, start here. If prepared correctly, this could become a new favorite!

Basic Tofu Stir-Fry Prep:

If using extra firm silken tofu (this kind comes in a little foil-type box), carefully remove the block of tofu from its packaging and slice into 1×2 slices. Because silken tofu is so delicate, this takes a very sharp knife and a steady hand. Once you have sliced the tofu, season lightly with salt and pepper or season-all of choice. It isn’t very Asian, but I use Slap Ya Mama (on everything).

If using firm or extra firm tofu (this is the kind that comes packed in water), marinate at least 30 minutes in a lightly flavored Asian marinade. I usually toss out the water the night before and replace it with the marinade. Slice in 1×2 pieces after marinating.

For either type of tofu, pat dry with paper towels prior to cooking and re-season if necessary. Then using the best non-stick pan you have, on med-high heat, sear on both sides in a little olive oil. Don’t turn until the tofu has a little crispy crust. You can achieve this with very little oil in a very good nonstick pan.

I usually cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Try to turn only once, especially if you are using silken tofu, as even the firmer varieties can break in this stage. Once the tofu slices have a good sear on both sides, set them aside on a paper towel lined plate.

These delightful little slices of tofu are great right out of the pan on a salad or can be the base of so many stir-fries.
Here are some of my favorite variations:

General Tso’s Tofu:

In a nonstick wok, stir-fry broccoli and carrot slices or match stick carrots, when the broccoli is just about cooked but still a little green and crispy, add the General Tso’s sauce. Stir and bring to temperature, then add the tofu to the pan carefully. Serve with Jasmine or brown rice.

A quick note on sauces: Target’s Market Pantry General Tso’s has the least amount of sugar and calories of the brands I’ve tried; Trader Joe’s has the highest. That said, I have tried this with many different brands; for me, it comes down to the labels on what’s available. So, read the label; a lot of these sauces are high in sugar and calories, but you can find one that is reasonable and still tasty. And, if you can’t find one that is low enough for your tastes, cut it with a little water before tossing into the veggies.

In addition to Target’s Market Pantry, I also go for LaChoy frequently for General Tso’s but also the sauces mentioned below.

Tofu Moo Shu:

Again, in a nonstick wok, stir-fry shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and/or broccoli slaw. Once the veggies are tender and have some color, toss in either chopped cashews or slivered almonds. Stir-fry for another minute or two until the nuts are toasted. Then add in 2 parts hoisin sauce to 1 part plum sauce. I suggest playing with the sauce ratios and also adding some hot pepper flakes. Plum sauce can be really aromatic and almost perfumey. If you don’t like aromatic sauces, you may want to decrease the plum sauce or add more hoisin.

I serve with either Jasmine or brown rice or light flour tortillas for wraps with extra hoisin sauce on the side.

Plain Ole Stir-fry:

I stir-fry whatever veg I have in the fridge in my nonstick wok, usually broccoli, carrots, snow peas, mushrooms, onions, peppers…really whatever I have that can withstand a stir-fry. Once the veg is done, I toss in some cashews or almonds and cook till toasted. Then, I add stir-fry sauce, hot pepper flakes and of course Slap Ya Mama.
I serve this with Jasmine or brown rice.

With most of these stir-fries, I also serve a pretty simple salad of Arugula and thinly sliced seasonal fruit with goat cheese and citrus vinegar. My favorite citrus vinegar is Trader Joe’s Champagne Muscat vinegar. This stuff is so good that I actually have to bring two bottles to my mom every time I visit home. She suffers from a lack of TJ’s access…

Hungry yet? I am…might just have to have tofu tonight for dinner!

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