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How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck Part 3

Phew!  It’s been a bit of a ride, but I am finally back on track.

In Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Today we’re going to be looking at how to stir fry tofu.  Next, we’ll look at it sauces that go well with tofu and then finish up with my recipe for ma po tofu made with nice, firm tofu.

Also, very shortly, I’ll have all of this information packed up into one, nice, easy-to-digest PDF for you to download.  But more on that as we go.

For now…stir frying your tofu.

As a cooking technique, stir frying offers you a number of distinct advantages, most notably that if you are short on time, you can stir fry your tofu without pressing it.  The results will always be better if you can press your tofu first, but in a pinch, this is the way to go.

Cutting Your Tofu For Stir Frying

The trick to perfect stir fried tofu is all in how you cut it.  Stir frying is the ultimate application of a lot of heat, a little fat, and a whole lot of stuff moving around.  This means you are going to have to cut you tofu into small blocks.

If you have no time for prep, when I mean small, I am talking about one-eighth inch thick slices.  Take the entire block of tofu, cut it in half lengthwise, and then make cuts every eighth of an inch.

If you have time for prepping the tofu, I would still not cut it any thicker than one-quarter of an inch.

The Stir Fry

A lot of stir fry recipes have you cook the meat first, then remove it, then cook some veggies, and remove them and so on.  When you are stir frying tofu, what I recommend doing is getting the oil nice and hot and then throwing the tofu into the wok.  Let it stir fry by itself for 3-4 minutes or until it is starting to go from golden brown to just brown brown.

Then remove it if you must.  Better yet, start adding in the other ingredients and let the tofu continue to cook.  The longer that tofu cooks without burning, the better it is going to taste in the end.

Stir Frying as Secondary Cooking

If you have the inclination, what a lot of restaurants like to do is deep fry their tofu first.  What I would recommend doing is cutting the tofu into one inch by two inch by one-half inch pieces, coating them in cornstarch and deep frying then until golden brown.  Once they have drained, they can be added towards the end of the stir fry process (give them at least 2 minutes to cook) and make sure they get coated in whatever sauce you make as they should soak up of that liquid and taste that much better.

Okay, what are you waiting for?  Next time we are talking tofu sauces.

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Chinese Cooking

Chinese cooking has long been an topic at which I have turned up my nose. For many years, I was awash in a sea of Panda Expresses, crab rangoon filled with Philadelphia cream cheese, and MSG-laden Chinese buffets.

A lot of that had to do with college. During those four years, I looked at Chinese cooking as a cheap alternative to dorm food. I could get a complete meal for $5 or I could drive to the buffet and stuff myself silly for $6.

Frankly, when that is all the Chinese cooking one eats, well, one can get a distorted view of the treasures Chinese cooking has to offer.

My re-engagment into Chinese cooking is actually due in a large part to a restaurant here in Kansas City called Andy’s Wok. Andy’s Wok has no buffet and is anything but cheap. Instead, it reminded me that there is a skill and an artistry to good Chinese cooking and it made me want to learn it on my own. But, if Andy’s Wok got me started, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop fanned the flames. Her travel memoir of time spent in Sichuan province learning the food, leaning Chinese cooking at one of their gourmet academies, and learning the culinary history of the nation really got me excited to tackle Sichuan and Chinese cooking.

Since reading her book, I have invested in a number of new items:

  • Fuchsia’s Chinese Cooking book on Hunan-style cuisine
  • Sichuan Peppercorns
  • Sichuan chili bean paste (sadly it’s not as hot as I had hoped)
  • And a hotpot in a box kit in anticipation of throwing a hot pot party

A lot of my culinary explorations in Blog Well Done will focus on Chinese cooking over the next several months. There is a whole country I need to cook.

To get things rolling, this is a recipe for a sauce I used tonight. Use it for your next stir fry.

  • 4 tablespoons broth
  • 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon of garlic*
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger*
  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan chili bean paste
  1. Mix ingredients well in a bowl.
  2. Stir fry meats and vegetables.
  3. Add noodles (if desired)
  4. Stir the sauce to make sure none of the sugar, garlic or ginger has settled to the bottom
  5. Add the sauce to the wok. Stir until the sauce thickens.

* Yes, I know I should use fresh, but my son was hungry and I had to think fast. 🙂


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