Tofu has a bland reputation as a food. I hear all the time that people don’t like it. This ‘veganuary’ however you might want to give it another try. There are several textures of tofu: from silken through to soft, medium, firm and extra firm of plain white tofu. Smoked tofu is available from several different companies as well as basil and tomato flavoured tofu. It can be used in savoury or sweet dishes. In Japan they use thick creamy tofu, almost like double cream with a mildly beany taste, for breakfast. In Kyoto last year I went for a set ‘temple’ meal where every dish used tofu differently and deliciously.
Think of it as a flavour sponge that is both high protein and low fat. It derives from the soybean which is boiled, mashed and strained and finally coagulated into a block much as cheese is.
Mapo tofu is easy to make – well worth adding to your meal rotation. It comes from the Sichuan province of China; the tongue numbing qualities of sichuan pepper are a vital ingredient. While it is often served with meat, this is a shiitake mushroom version. For this you will need soft tofu ideally, but it is soaked in hot salty water for 15 minutes prior to cooking.
- 400 g box of soft tofu not silken
- 5 soaked dried shiitake mushrooms, diced, keep water
- 1 red bell pepper, finely sliced
- 400 g fresh shiitake mushroom, sliced thinly
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- 1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsps groundnut or vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp fermented bean paste
- 1 or 2 small red chillies, minced or a spoonful of chinese chilli paste
- 1 tsp heaped sichuan peppercorns, finely ground
- 2 tbsps soy or tamari sauce
- 2 tbsp cornflour in 3 tbsps water, mixed into a slurry
- 3/4 spring onions, finely sliced
- large pinch fresh coriander leaves
Prepare the tofu by cutting it into one inch cubes and soaking it in hot but not boiling salted water. Drain after 15 minutes or more.
Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms, covering them in boiling water. Leave until the mushrooms are soft, then dice the mushrooms. Retain the mushroom soaking water and add it to the vegetable stock water.
Prepare the other ingredients so that they are ready to be stir-fried: red bell pepper, fresh mushrooms, ginger, garlic.
Using a wok or deep frying pan, add the oil and heat to frying temperature
Add the bell peppers,fry for a couple of minutes, then add fermented bean paste, chilli paste or chillies, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sichuan pepper.
Add the mushroom/vegetable broth and simmer on high for a couple of minutes.
Carefully add the cubes of tofu, taking care not to break them too much.
Add the cornflour slurry, stirring for a couple of minutes
Serve with rice or noodles, garnishing with spring onions or chives and or coriander leaves.
This is a Japanese pescetarian/vegan dish, depending on whether the broth or 'dashi' has bonito flakes (a kind of fermented tuna) in it.
It's subtle in flavour: essentially all about the texture, the soft insides of the tofu cubes with the crispy outsides and the salty broth. It's rather like tofu tempura.
- 400 g soft tofu
- 5 tbsp cornflour
- 300 ml dashi broth
- 2 tbsp mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
- 3 tbsp soy/tamari sauce
- 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 tsp Togarashi (Japanese seven spice)
- vegetable or groundnut oil for deep frying
- 5 inches Daikon radish, finely sliced on a mandoline. (optional)
Prepare the sauce by mixing the dashi, mirin and soy sauce. Set aside.
Slice the spring onions.
First wrap your tofu in a clean teatowel or kitchen paper and place a weight on top. Leave for 15 minutes. Then cut it into 1 or 2 inch squares.
Sprinkle a plate with cornflour and dip each side of the tofu square with the flour.
Heat up a deep fryer or deep frying pan with oil to 180Cº
Once the outside of the tofu/cornflour looks crispy and starts to float, drain it on some kitchen paper.
Place 3 cubes in a small bowl and pour the broth mixture around the tofu.
Sprinkle with spring onion and togarashi spice. Plus the daikon if you have it.