As many of you know, I’ve had my fair share of tofu mishaps: not pressing it before cooking it, having the fire far too hot, using the wrong kind of oil, just to name a few. So I decided a couple of months ago, once and for all, to demystify the process.
I experimented with different levels of firmness. Prior experience had already taught me that for frying you must use either firm or extra firm. I tried both, paying careful attention to several factors and discovered that extra firm fries best. The consistency is easier to work with and it retains its shape better as it cooks. I preferred organic tofu. I shop at several different stores and they all carry different brands, but for me, the organic brands taste fresher. I also enjoy the fact that I’m eating something good for me and the environment.
I’ve already written an article on pressing tofu. And I thought that this method would be fine for frying purposes, as it turns out, I was incorrect. As my grandmother always said, oil and water don’t mix, especially hot oil and water. For frying you’ll want to remove as much water as possible from the tofu. I use the method described in Do You Tofu?, with this addition: change the paper towels three times during the course of the day and press from a longer period of time. I press mine from the time I rise, about 6 a.m. to just before I cook dinner, about 7 p.m. This removes enough moisture to result in beautiful, golden tofu.
The oil must be hot but not excessively so. I have an electric stove, which I hate, and I use its medium high setting. Cook tops differ so you’ll have to play with yours if you don’t already know what’s the best temperature for frying.
The oil is a huge factor. At first I used olive oil, which was a disaster as it burns at a relatively low temperature. I switched to grape seed oil, which has a higher burn point, it worked beautifully. Grape seed oil doesn’t add any taste so the flavor of the tofu isn’t masked. Frying times will differ due to different appliances, I usually cook mine about 2-3 minutes per side, flipping once.
This last bit of information makes a world of difference. Use a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl, coat each piece of tofu, set aside, then coat a second time just before frying. I season the cornstarch with salt and pepper or, if I’m feeling spicy, Slap Ya’ Momma and a pinch of salt. The addition of the cornstarch helps to further reduce the moisture and adds a light ‘crust’.
- One package organic extra firm tofu, pressed
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- salt and pepper to taste
- grape seed oil
Cut pressed tofu in to one inch blocks. Place cornstarch and seasonings in a bowl, mix well. Coat tofu in cornstarch and set aside. Heat enough grape seed oil to cover the bottom of a shallow pan over medium high heat. Cooking in batches, re-coat one-third of the tofu at a time and place in the hot oil. Allow to fry on one side for about 2-3 minutes or until slightly golden, flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels, or a tea towel, to drain. Continue in this manner until all tofu is cooked.
Fried tofu is a great addition to stir fry dishes, simply cook the tofu first and set aside. Prepare your stir fry and serve the tofu on top to prevent it getting soggy. If you have any left over tofu, place in an air tight container, lined with a paper towel. Heat in the microwave for 25 seconds.
Copyright ElleVeg 2014