Tofu: Not just for smug vegans anymore

Crispy Tofu Tacos
Image: The Woks of Life

In the U.S., tofu is supposedly what you eat to prove that you’re better than other people, that you care about animals, or don’t have taste buds. It’s much maligned here, and I’d argue that’s because people try to make it something it’s not. If tofu frankenfoods like soy dogs or false-meat patties are your thing that’s fine, but personally I find them to be the worst possible offering of a food that’s been around for a couple millennia and fed billions.

There are good reasons to add tofu to your diet. Its shelf life is weeks or months instead of days, and it’s inexpensive compared to meat. It appeals to the procrastinating, cheapskate in me. Apparently it’s also good for you and has a relatively low carbon footprint (depending on various factors.)

The thing is, none of this matters if you don’t like it. When you’re hungry, deliciousness ends up having way more clout than do-gooder cred. So can tofu be just as tantalizing as a burger or ice cream? I say yes. You just need to stop making it a symbol of morality and figure out how you want to eat it.

Add Meat

Image: Blue Apocalypse
Image: Blue Apocalypse

If you like the flavor of meat, just add meat to your tofu. Obviously this method only works for omnivores, but the idea that meat and tofu are mutually exclusive leaves out a ton of mouth-watering possibilities. You don’t need to use as much meat to flavor a dish, and the texture combination is excellent. (Those who don’t eat meat can use mushrooms to achieve a similar umami flavor and mouthfeel.) Recipe from Blue Apocalypse.

Fry It

Crispy Tofu Tacos
Image: The Woks of Life

Fried tofu is magic. The outside is crisp and chewy and the inside is warm and custardy. Whether pan frying or deep frying, the prep isn’t even that hard. Cube it, coat it, fry it, then eat it with a single tear rolling down your face because it’s that good. Plus, fried tofu works in a variety of dishes since the tofu itself is so versatile. For example, Crispy Tofu Tacos. If frying isn’t your thing, baking or grilling tofu can also achieve a good crusty exterior.

Spice It

 

Image: Jing Theory
Image: Jing Theory

People say that tofu doesn’t taste like anything. As a lazy monster who will just cube it and eat it straight up, I can tell you it does have a pleasantly fresh, mild flavor. That flavor mixed with spiciness, from Indian curries to the Thai treatment, is so good. When spice is used to develop a tofu dish, the result is immensely satisfying. For those who haven’t had tofu or have been disappointed with it, but love spice, I recommend trying Ma Po Tofu, ideally from a Sichuan specific restaurant. Or make your own using this recipe from Jing Theory.

Dessert!

Image: Cloud of Cookmorphosis
Image: Cloud of Cookmorphosis

Silken tofu can be made into pies, puddings, smoothies, and even fudgesicles due to its texture. It does an admirable job to taking the place of some dairy products. If you need to consume more soy and less dairy for whatever reason, this is perhaps the easiest place to start.

However, super-soft tofu as dessert shines in its natural state, too. Desserts like douhua are smooth, sweet, and cool and are perfect for hot summer days. If need be, you can even convince yourself that you’re just being healthy. Check out this recipe from Cookmorphosis.

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