Preparing Tofu

Pressing tofu

Many people I have talked to say they do not like tofu, and frequently they say it is because of the texture. What this really means, is that they have not had tofu that has been prepared well. There are several things to keep in mind when cooking with tofu.

Stri-frying tofu
Stri-frying tofu

First, make sure you buy the right kind of tofu. There are two kinds — firm (regular) and silken. Here is where it gets a bit confusing, as each kind often have different firmness labels as well. Usually silken tofu is sold unrefrigerated in a tetrapak, while regular tofu is sold in a plastic container and is packed with water. For most recipes you will probably use regular tofu. For anything that gets blended, you want silken tofu.

The most important thing about preparing firm (regular) tofu is to press it. Pressing the tofu gets rid of excess water from the packing. Getting rid of the water allows the tofu to absorb more of a marinade (if you are using one), and it will also allow the tofu to be fried better. For most stir-fry applications, I usually shallow fry the tofu a bit. If the tofu has lots of water in it, it will end up being boiled instead of fried, and will not achieve the desired texture.

Pressing tofu is quite easy. Simply place the tofu whole on a plate, then put another plate on top of it (upside down), and place something heavy on the top plate, such as canned beans. Let the tofu sit for at least 15 minutes. It’s best if you pour off the water two or more times. Unlike raw meat, having put raw tofu on a plate does not harm it all, so I frequently use the same plate to eat off, saving me the trouble of washing some extra dishes.

To stir-fry tofu, heat a non-stick wok as hot as you can, then add some oil with a high burning point such as canola oil or peanut oil (not olive oil). Add the tofu to the pan and cook until golden brown on all sides. The tofu will cook better if the wok is only about half full – don’t crowd the pan.


Tomato basil salad

tomato basil salad

There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes. Don’t even bother making this salad with store bought tomatoes. They have to be home grown or from the farmer’s market. Also make sure that your basil is fresh, not dried. Dried basil is almost flavorless.

Szechuan eggplant and bok choy lo mein

Szechuan eggplant and bok choy lo mein

This is a spicy dish with some of my favorite vegetable – bok choy and eggplant. They taste great together, especially with a spicy black bean sauce. It might seem like a lot of bok choy, but it cooks down quite a bit.

Taco Salad

Mache taco salad

You can use any sort of lettuce you want, but I think that this recipe turned out very well with mache. It has a very nutty flavor to it, and is much more nutritious than the iceberg lettuce used in most taco salads. If you can’t find mache, try a red leaf lettuce, or perhaps even a spring mix.

Thai tofu curry

Thai tofu curry

This one comes from Vegetarian Cooking, though I have made my own modifications. Two key points I have learned about cooking tofu: (1) press the tofu, and (2) fry the tofu. These two steps will give it a very nice texture, which is frequently the complaint of many people who do not like tofu. There’s a good chance they have never had it cooked well.

Seitan Fajitas

Seitan fajitas

This is a quick, cheap, tasty, and healthy meal featuring ingredients I usually have on hand. You can use fresh seitan if you want, but the canned seitan is much cheaper. You can find it in many Asian groceries.

Chocolate Bliss


This recipe originally comes from The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld and George Minot, in which it was originally called Chocolate Pudding. It turns out that the consistency was not much like pudding, and for awhile I tried to make it more like pudding, but my girlfriend said she liked it as it was. So I then figured out a nice way to serve it, added a little brandy for some extra flavor, and a little bit of that magic xanthum gum to thicken it up. Trust me, it’s a real hit.

Barbecued Tofu


This is another recipe which is mostly my wifes idea. She used to do something similar with chicken, and wanted to try it with tofu. Although the prep is quick on this one, it does take a while to bake. It makes very good leftovers for lunch though. To make good tofu, it is imperative to press it.

Corn bean salad

corn bean salad

Clare gets most of the credit for this recipe. The combination of corn, beans, and vegetables makes a tasty, healthy, and quick meal. It is particularly nice in the summer, since it does not require any cooking.