How I Prepare My Tofu

I am somewhat a fussy eater, and all those who know me well knows this one fact: I cannot tolerate most foods with a squishy texture, especially if it wriggles. I'm not joking, it's an intense dislike and I can't help it. My partner won't shut up about me hating avocados to this day because of this.

Tofu falls under the squishy and wriggly spectrum so it wasn't something I looked forward to eating. For the first couple of years of vegetarianism I steadfastly avoided anything that was softer than extra firm or dry tofu. They weren't very appetising so I only ate a few mouthfuls every time I made some. The only exception to this rule were the tofu served in restaurants, because they knew how to make tofu delicious without having the texture I despised.

One day I went to a Japanese restaurant and ordered the Teriyaki Tofu. My dish arrived sizzling on a hot cast iron tray, the teriyaki sauce caramelising over the onions and cabbage. I tentatively dug my fork into a chunk of soy encased in a layer of lightly fried batter. The tofu fell apart easily, so wriggly it made my stomach turn. All of my apprehension vanished as soon as I took my first bite; the tofu melted on my tongue with the rich teriyaki sauce and still-crispy batter. That was when I knew I had found my favourite tofu dish. If you've heard of agedashi tofu, this tofu is made in the same way, coated in cornflour and then fried.

With this method, the tofu can be cut into however shape or size you like - sliced lengthwise or cut crosswise into cubes for curries and nibbles. One coat of cornflour produces a very thin layer of coating which I find gets soggy quickly. Two coats results in a crispier coating that is suitable for the agedashi/teriyaki tofu dishes. Three coats on the other hand makes the tofu super crispy and works really well when used in many dishes such as curries and stirfries.

Firstly I drain the tofu and then wrap it in a few layers of paper towels. I put a suitably-sized flat object on top of the tofu and weigh it down with a couple of cans to press the remaining water out. I leave it for about half an hour while I go about working on the rest of dinner. If I want smaller pieces I cut the tofu after pressing to help keep the shape intact, and then I pat dry the cut sides.

I then grab a small bowl and scoop about three or four tablespoons of cornflour into it. You can use a combination of cornflour and other gluten-free flours like potato starch or rice flour. I find they don't absorb enough of the water from the tofu so I generally stick to just cornflour. I coat the tofu pieces in the cornflour and set it down on baking paper. The reason why I use baking paper is to prevent the cornflour from sticking to the board and peeling off the tofu. Before I do the second coat, I wait until the first layer has absorbed the water from the tofu to make it sticky enough for the second coat. Coat the pieces in more cornflour for the second coat and wait until the cornflour absorbs more water.

At this point you can fry the tofu pieces or do a third coat. When I've finished coating the tofu for the third time I always wait for the cornflour to become moist before I add it to the fryer. This is so that the flour particles do not get distributed in the oil but rather, sticks to the tofu. This prevents the flour particles from burning and affecting the flavour of the tofu, as well as making it easier to store and reuse the oil while it's clean and free from contaminants. I used to strain the oil using either coffee filters or paper towels to remove the flour particles and it was a messy chore, so it's better to eliminate it at the source.

Fill a saucepan with enough oil to reach halfway up the tofu pieces and set it on the stove, turning it to medium-high heat. After about a few minutes, add a crumb of bread and fry it for thirty seconds - if it becomes hard and crunchy when the time is up, the tofu is ready for frying. Add the tofu to the oil and let fry. You might notice that it sticks to the bottom of the pan but that's fine, because when the bottom side is ready, it'll pop off the base without much issue, allowing you to turn it over. Fry until it is lightly golden. Repeat for the other side and then place on a few layers of paper towels to drain the excess oil. Now you may use it in whatever recipe you wish.


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