I know tofu can be a little daunting to cook with if you haven't used it before, particularly if you're a new vegan and attempt to treat it like you might have done a nonvegan protein source. I used to think tofu was an awful food, even as a vegetarian I refused to eat it as I'd had only had one encounter with it and it had been like eating a horrible tasteless blancmange. Then one evening out my husband persuaded me to try some of the crispy salt & pepper tofu he had ordered and I couldn't believe I had been missing out on it for so long - it was delicious!
Now I can honestly say tofu is one of my most favourite foods. So hopefully if you've not had much luck with it so far, or you've been looking for a an introduction to tofu, this will help you make a successful dish. I've tried to make it as beginner-friendly as possible with step-by-step photos but feel free to post any questions in the comments if you need help or any additional tips!
Top tofu tip! Before we get started it's probably worth sharing my number 1 favourite tip for tofu - freeze it first then defrost it. Whilst this means a little more planning, it seems to make a big difference in the firmness, how easy it is to work with, and also the texture of the end result. It's not the end of the world if you haven't time to freeze it before using but for future reference, I find it works best to keep tofu in the freezer and just take it out to defrost the evening before or the morning of the day I'm going to be using it.
- 400g of firm tub tofu (I used Cauldron Original)
- 1 tsp of Chinese 5-spice (feel free to substitute with your preferred spice)
- 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (rice bran is good as it has a high smoke point, olive oil works well too)
- 1 tablespoon of plain flour (if you're gluten or wheat intolerant, you can substitute for your preferred flour or use gram/chickpea flour)
- 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (optional)
- Splash of soy sauce
- 1 sliced chilli, 1 spring onion, few slices of red onion (optional - for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Your favourite vegan dipping sauce - I love sweet chilli with this dish
- Unpackage the tofu and drain well, squeezing the excess moisture over the sink before placing in a clean tea cloth
- Wrap the cloth around the tofu and press down on it to remove as much of the moisture as possible - I find placing it between two chopping boards is a good method
- Cut the tofu into cubes - I find slicing it in half into two flat slabs is a good way to start
- Place the tofu in a bowl, add the salt, pepper, spices, and soy sauce and mix gently until all pieces are evenly coated
- Add the flour and mix again, until evenly coated
- Heat the oil in a pan, then carefully add the tofu (you don't want to burn yourself with splashes of hot oil!)
- Fry the tofu, turning occasionally, until golden
- Serve as is with the garnish or dipping sauce or add at the last minute to your favourite stir fry dish