Tofu Steak. . . it can be pretty amazing.
But "delicious" and "tofu" are not words I ever dreamed of pairing not too long ago. I had enjoyed fried tofu in Pad Thai and other dishes where it was tossed in for good non-animal protein, but I had never even considered eating it as its own course, big and geometric on the plate. That texture, and the blandness. Bleh. Once again, my ignorance of what has been enjoyed for 2,000 years is mind blowing. When ignorance leads to aloofness, or worse, arrogance, it's not good. And, it can prevent you enjoying tremendous offerings. This is how I was about tofu. Then a few months ago, my boss (who lessened my ignorance of Early American Lit eons ago) took me to lunch at Omi, a terrific Japanese restaurant near the university, and since Don and I were on a path to eat less of the beef steak variety, I saw tofu steak on the menu and the description convinced me to try it. After the first bite, I thought I'd die (from enjoyment, not from choking). My boss, Steve, looked incredulous at my enraptured face, and when I offered him a bite, he declined and started off on something about Nathaniel Hawthorne and witches . . .
With tofu steak, the outside of the tofu is delicately crispy, while the inside is creamy. Those textures coupled with the sweet-savory sauce are a winner (you can leave it savory without any sweetness if you prefer, as in the original recipe, below. Also, If you don't like mushrooms, just leave them out.)
Now, whenever Don and I go for sushi and rolls, we also get tofu steak. In fact we love it so much we decided we ought to learn to make it at home. We dug around for a recipe online, and so I want to share the one we picked and tweaked, because it's so simple and yummy, and I want you happy. Making it together takes about 10 minutes prep (mostly chopping) and 10 minutes cooking; Don sautés the tofu, and I make the sauce. Tofu may be bland alone, but it absorbs flavors beautifully, so I'll keep trying new dishes. Maybe you have favorites you'd like to share.
The online recipe is here. Our tweaks in autumn rust. Here is a podcast of me reading the recipe. . . Just kidding!
Tofu Steak With Japanese Mushroom Sauce (or without mushrooms, if you prefer)
Yield: 4 Servings - We halve the recipe for the two of us, since this doesn't keep well.
4 firm tofu - we use soft tofu, which gets crispy outside and stays creamy inside
1 c fresh shiitake mushroom
1 c fresh enoki mushroom
1 pk regular white mushrooms - we use whatever mushrooms we have on hand
1/2 green onions
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sake (Japanese rice wine) - we don't have sake and use Sherry
4 tablespoons soy sauce2/3 c dashi (Japanese fish stock) - I need to find some of this, but we use about 1/3 c fish sauce mixed with 1/3 c veggie broth
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste (Whenever we've eaten tofu steak at several sushi places, it has been sweet, though this original recipe does not call for sugar.)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
a few teaspoons cornstarch on a plate.
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Place a clean cloth towel in a shallow plate (something like brownie
pan would be good) and put Tofu on it for 30 minutes to drain water. Wipe the surface of Tofu with paper towels and sprinkle some salt (to make the surface of the steak crisp and brown when done.)
2. Cut off the stem of mushrooms and slice them. divide Enoki into small
bunch. Cut green onions in 2 inches long. Finely chop garlic.
3. Dredge Tofu in cornstarch on a plate covering all sides
and ends with cornstarch. Put 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a
frying pan and fry all sides of Tofu in medium-high heat
(we slow it down a little and sauté on medium heat),
until Tofu turn golden brown. Put them on serving plates.
We buy packaged soft tofu in water and cut it in half for two people,
halving this recipe. After draining per #1, we cover all surfaces
with cornstarch and sauté all six sides of the oblongs
(what are oblong "cubes" called? Oh, Don says they are rectangular prisms.)
4. Wipe the frying pan with paper towel and add another 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil. Saute garlic and the mushrooms in medium heat quickly. Add Sake, soy sauce and Dashi stock and bring it to boil. Add green onions. We wait and add the green onions at the very end, since we like them better barely cooked. Dissolve cornstarch in 2Tbsp of water and add to the sauce. Stir from the bottom of the pan and pour it over the cooked Tofu. Serve while hot! (4 servings) We cook the sauce in a separate pan while sautéing the tofu.
NOTE: Dashi is the basic soup stock used in most Japanese dishes such as
Miso Soup and Udon. You can get the powdered stock called 'Hondashi' in any Oriental stores. Substitute it with chicken stock or veggie stock if you like. Shiitake and Enoki are very expensive in the U.S., but they are very flavorful. Try not to cook them too long.
Allow me to share one more great tip for preparing tofu for adding to stir fries and soups. Rather than frying (I'm trying to use less oil), you can bake it and get that nice fried texture. I found the instructions here.
BAKED TOFU: Buy one pound of extra-firm tofu and bake it in the oven using this easy method: Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius); cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slabs; marinate it for a few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of honey, and some minced garlic; then spread the tofu on an oiled baking sheet and bake until crispy on the edges and golden brown (about 25 to 30 minutes).
It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual health,
to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself,
who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities
he must go out of himself to appreciate.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne