Quick and simple meatless dish is my way to start Monday. My mom introduced me to tofu when I was still in the Philippines. Because of her age and health condition, she was advised to avoid eating pork so she started looking for replacement and tofu was the one that she liked. She would cook it for herself and cook another dish for the rest of us eat. I remembered I used to just stare at and wonder what on earth is that thing! It looks like gelatin, sometimes soft and sometimes firm. I tried it and at first I did not like it because there is almost no taste in it. But surprisingly, I ended up liking it voluntarily and that’s because of the dipping sauce that my mother prepared when she served it. One of her favorite why to cook it is to cut it into rectangles, fry it and cut it into cubes. Then the magic happens when she made the dipping sauce. The sauce was just a mixture of soy sauce, spicy vinegar, sugar, fresh chili and chopped red onions. That sauce made me and tofu best friends until now. The tofu itself doesn’t have a taste, but when cut into cubes and dipped into the sauce, the tofu absorbs the spicy, sweet and salty taste of the sauce, it was so good! That is how I started liking tofu.
What is tofu made of?
It’s from soy beans. Tofu is made from curd of soy beans. It’s similar to when making cheese, only instead of producing curds from milk, tofu gets it from soy beans. So in some way, it’s healthier option to meat. The curds are then pressed into a block and submerged into a liquid or vaccum sealed. The texture could vary from soft, medium soft, firm and extra firm. The type of tofu that you need depends on what you are using it for. You can use tofu in both sweet and savory dishes, in smoothies, in making sauces
Not all tofu are created equal
If you haven’t cooked tofu before, then one important thing you need to know if what kind of tofu buy. The type of tofu you buy depends on how you want to cook it and how you want to use it. There’s quite a variety out there, and they all differ in texture. Theres the Silken Tofu which is very smooth and custard like texture, and then there is Regular Tofu. Both kind comes in different texture soft, medium firm, firm, extra firm. In most of the dishes I cook, I often used Regular Tofu either medium firm or firm. If I want to grill it or fry it or even bake it, I go for the firm texture. It’s more stable, it doesn’t break easily, it’s not too fragile and it cooks faster because there’s less water in it, and it also absorbs flavor better. The medium firm on the other hand have softer texture, slightly more fragile than firm texture and best use for simmering in soup.
It’s all in the hands of the sauce ..
Whether you will hate it or love it, depends on how you cook it. After using tofu in quite a few dishes, I realized cooking tofu is all about making a good sauce because tofu itself doesn’t have a taste on its own, it’s bland. The sauce or broth cannot be just ok, it has to be great for the dish to work. Sauce matters because it’s all in the hands of the sauce. This dish has a slightly sweet, spicy and salty sauce which worked well with steamed broccoli and tofu. I prefer keeping it in a lighter side, so the sauce is only slightly thick and sweet but I went heavy on the spicy side. The cornstarch serves as a thickener for the sauce, I used very little amount as I prefer slightly thicker sauce, you can increase the cornstarch if you want it thicker. The sugar on the other hand gave a balance to the salty taste of the soy sauce, and the chili gave the dish extra “zing” as I call it. Feel free to adjust the spices to your preference and taste before serving, as always.
The batch could feed 3-4 people assuming you are serving it with rice or noodles but it is also great to have it on its own. If I want a light meal, I’ll have this with noodles and other times I like having it with steamed white rice.
No throw away: I used both the florets and the stem of the broccoli. I usually throw the stem, but I thought I would use it this time to avoid any waste. I cut the florets into small pieces, and then for the stems I remove at least 1 inch of the bottom and cut the rest very thinly so that it cooks easily. If you don’t like broccoli, you can also use cauliflower and even carrots that would also be nice.
Use non-stick pan (if possible): Since tofu is very fragile, it helps when you use a non-stick to fry it to avoid breaking it apart when you turn it, and it will make your life easier, trust me.
Heated Pan: Whenever frying tofu, it is always best to make sure that the pan is hot, this is another layer of protection from avoiding the tofu to stick to the even. Although if you are already using on-stick, you should be almost safe from that problem.
The Sauce: Since the sauce is what will carry this dish, feel free to adjust it to your preference in terms of spiciness, thickness and sweetness.
Texture and Taste
This dish although tofu, ended up flavorful because of the sauce. It has nice texture because of the combination of crunchy broccoli and soft tofu, and a sweet, spicy and salty sauce that brings them all together as one. Let me show you how I made this. Let’s get started!
- 3 cups boiling water
- 500g broccoli (doesn’t have to be exact) – cut into small pieces
- 450g Medium Firm or Firm Tofu – cut into cubes
- 3 tbsp flavorless oil
- 1/4 tsp paprika or cayenne pepper
- 1 small yellow/white onions (about 1/3 cup) – chopped
- 3 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 3/4 tsp salt (I used fine salt)
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
Note: For a sweeter and thicker sauce, increase measurement of sugar and cornstarch by 1 tsp, adjust gradually as you will not want it to be super thick and super sweet.
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, leave boiling while preparing the broccoli.
- Cut broccoli into small pieces, both florets and stem. For the stem, cut it in thin slices so that it cooks faster.
- Turn of the stove and blanch the cut broccoli. Leave it there for 1 minute then drain and transfer into a strainer. Run with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside while you prepare the sauce and tofu.
- Tofu: In a heated non-stick pan, add 3 tbsp oil then gently arrange tofu with wider side of the cube facing down, cook in medium high heat. Sprinkle dash of salt and paprika on top. Leave for 8-9 minutes, do not disturb it, do not flip it. After 9 minutes, turn each cubes to cook the other side. Sprinkle dash of salt and paprika on top and let cook for 9 minutes. Firm tofu could take less time, I used medium firm for this recipe. Just watch out for the browning, it should look like in the photo. Remove from the pan while you prepare the sauce. Add more oil as needed.
- Sauce: Using the same pan where you fry the tofu, add garlic, onion, chili flakes and saute for about 1 minute. Mix water, soy sauce and cornstarch, salt and sugar. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved. Pour into the pan and continue stirring. The sauce will start to thicken. Add tofu and broccoli stir to cover the tofu and broccoli with sauce. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or more if you like your vegetables soft. I like mine crunchy so I avoided over cooking it.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
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Serve hot over steamed rice or mix with noodles. I like to have both especially when I make a large batch. This dish is so easy to make and a good Meat Free recipe that I enjoy from time to time. I hope you will like it to. Enjoy!
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