I’m a reasonably intelligent person; cooking tofu shouldn’t be that difficult. But I’ve made some bad tofu: Dry and tasteless or mushy and tasteless or rubbery and, well, tasteless. I like tofu, but so far, only when someone else cooks it.
I can deep fry tofu and like it a lot, but you know, even if it’s tofu, it’s still deep frying and that’s not so good for me. Of course, I could eat deep fried foods every day. Doughnuts come to mind. Doughnuts often come to mind.
This tofu was not deep fried, but it was dry-fried before it was marinated. Dry-frying tofu may seem kind of like a lot of rigmarole, because it is: pressing, then dry-frying, marinating and then frying. Yeah, that’s a lot of steps. I’m not one much for futzy cooking. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love to dirty every dish and pot and pan and I just don’t have much patience for say, peeling grapes. That being said, I went ahead and got down and futzy and the result was some quite good tofu.
There are some differing opinions on tofu and marinating and dry-frying. One school of thought is that since tofu isn’t actually porous, no matter how much you dry it, it’s not going to absorb a marinade, and that traditionally, tofu is not marinated but rather served with dipping sauces. So there’s that to ponder or debate if you can find someone that’s given to debating topics like tofu and marinades. There’s so much to worry about all the time. Well, fiddle-dee-dee. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today, I’m going to enjoy my dry-fried, marinated and caramelized tofu – the best I’ve ever made – with these excellent noodles in their very excellent dressing.
*I know it does seem like a lot of different steps, but once you’ve readied your tofu, it’s really just making a marinade, whisking together the dressing ingredients, then cooking some noodles and frying some tofu. Not wham-bam, exactly, but doable.
**The Sesame Noodles recipe is adapted from a little cookbook I picked up at a used book store in Seattle,Vegetarian Meals Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes. The original recipe calls for spaghetti, but I like it much better with soba or udon noodles. I also increased the dressing, as the soba noodles especially soak up a lot of liquid and there just isn’t enough dressing to my way of thinking.
***The prep time includes the 60 minutes for pressing and 30 minutes for marinating.
- 12 ounces Soba noodles
- 10 ounces shredded carrots, about 3 cups
- 3 to 4 medium Persian cucumbers, cut into matchsticks (unpeeled)
- 1/2 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips, then strips cut in half
- 3 to 4 green onions, sliced thin, including the green (save some for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
- 2 radishes, coarsely shredded (for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (for serving)
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 3 teasspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu
- 2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil, for frying
- 1/4 cup sodium-reduced soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Prepare the tofu for the marinade:
Drain the tofu, then place on woven kitchen towel. Cover with another towel and then a plate. Set a couple of heavy cans or books on top of the plate. Let sit for about 30 minutes, then flip the tofu and let sit for another 30 minutes. Cut the tofu into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, then add the cubed tofu (you may need to work in batches), and cook until brown on one side. Flip and brown on the other side and if you have all kinds of patience, do that for all four sides.
While tofu dry-fries, make the tofu marinade: Whisk together all the tofu marinade ingredients.
Remove the tofu from the skillet and put in a shallow dish for marinating. Pour the marinade over the tofu, making sure the tofu is well-covered. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Coat a skillet with the peanut oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the tofu to the hot oil (reserve the marinade), and cook, adding a little marinade as it browns to help caramelize the tofu. Cook until the tofu is golden brown.
Make the noodle dressing:
In medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, peanut butter, sesame oil, ginger, sugar and crushed red pepper.
Cook the noodles according to package directions. Place the carrots in a colander, and when the noodles are done cooking, drain the noodles over the carrots.
In serving bowl, combine the noodles and carrots with cucumbers, green onions, red pepper strips. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat well all the ingredients with the dressing.
Top with toasted sesame seeds, green onion and radish and peanuts. And serve with caramelized tofu.
If you're going to put your tofu on skewers, you can do it before you put the tofu in the marinade, or you can wait and get your fingers all sticky and skewer them after marinating.
The noodles are also good with green or purple cabbage, instead of cucumbers. Just put the shredded cabbage in the colander along with the carrots and drain the noodles over all to lightly cook the vegetables.
The noodles are best served at room temperature and they're great for a work lunch. Just pull them from the fridge and let come to room temperature.
So this was dinner for Vegan Day Four. Breakfast for this Vegan Day was a bowl of berries and banana with peanut butter toast.
Lunch was some of this soup pulled from the freezer and without the dollop of yogurt. And an apple.
Four Vegan Days does not a vegan make, of course. But I’m always a little proud when I get to the end of the day and know I haven’t gone astray and eaten ice cream. A little proud and a little sad.