To most non-vegetarians, this word probably strikes fear in your hearts. See: "Killer Tofu"! Eating tofu probably seems as fun to you as sticking your hand in a tank full of piranhas, and only slightly less painful. (Okay, I realize maybe not all of you feel this way, but I've run across quite a few meat-eaters who avoid tofu like the plague without ever having tried it before.) Please give tofu a chance...and then also give it another chance.
I have a little story to tell you about my adventures with tofu. Before I became a vegetarian, I had 3 vegetarian roommates. I was the only one who was not a vegetarian, but I tried some of their tofu anyway. Guess what?
1st Taste Test:
I absolutely HATED it! I thought it was flavorless, had a weird texture, and was just all-around gross. You know what? So is chicken if you try to eat it without cooking it or adding some type of sauce or seasoning. Okay, okay, maybe that's just my opinion, but plain chicken? Honestly, who eats chicken without adding anything to it? Nobody, that's who.
2nd Taste Test:
Fast forward to a few years later. I decided to become a pescetarian (only after I stopped living with all my veggie roommates, of course). I thought it might be time to give tofu another try. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I remembered. Hell, I hated asparagus and mushrooms as a kid. Now I love them both! So I decided to try baked tofu. I cut my tofu up into neat little triangles, added some spices, and stuck it in the oven. I had high hopes for this tofu. It even looked good.
I took it out of the oven, let it cool, and then gave it a try... It was DISGUSTING and super dry! Needless to say, I should have followed a recipe, and I also probably shouldn't have cooked it for that long.
3rd Taste Test:
Luckily, I wasn't ready to give up on tofu, yet. This time, I followed a recipe and used some teriyaki sauce instead of spices. I also stir-fried some veggies and steamed some rice to go along with my tofu. The result? DELICIOUS!
Okay, it didn't taste just like chicken. Tofu has a completely different texture, but once you stop comparing it to meat, you discover that tofu is actually pretty darn good. It's not a meat replacement. It can be a good source of protein, though. If you want something that mimics meat, you can find lots of those in the freezer aisle at any grocery store. Especially Quorn. I love me some Quorn. Unfortunately, most of Quorn's products are not vegan because they contain egg whites and milk products. So, I won't be eating those for a while. Anyway, back to tofu.
Tofu Tips for Omnivores (and Veggivores):
-There are lots of different kinds of tofu. I prefer organic, extra firm, and pre-cubed, which only saves you like 3 minutes, but it's usually the same price as the regular tofu.
-My preferred method: heat olive oil in a skillet, add cubed tofu, don't flip it until you hear it crackle (and sometimes flips itself), cook until it is golden brown on at least two sides.
-If you want to bake it, first drain the excess moisture, but also add some kind of marinade, seasoning, or sauce. (This sounds silly: get rid of the moisture, then add moisture. However, it makes a big difference in the taste of your tofu.)
-When baking, don't turn the heat up too high or leave it in the oven too long. It's not meat, so you won't contract any crazy diseases if it's undercooked. It's better to err on the less-cooked side because you can always just put it back in the oven!
-Yes, it's made of soybeans, but tofu does go bad! Don't open the package and then let it sit in your fridge for a month. There will be mold on it, and that's just gross.
-If you're cooking for one, your best bet is to cook it all at once and reheat leftovers.
In my picture below, I made the whole package of tofu. On the left is Sweet & Sour Tofu that I packed in my lunch and on the right is Orange Ginger Tofu. I cooked them both in the same skillet until they were golden-y delicious and more solid. Then, I separated them so that I could add different sauces. That way, they didn't seem like leftovers since the lunch tofu tasted completely different from the tofu I had the night before. Score!