If you think tofu is disgusting, if the word itself makes you run screaming from the room, if you look upon it with revulsion and wonder how anyone could eat soybean Jell-O, well, you’re not alone, friend. At all. For anyone who’s ever had to slurp down poorly prepared bean curd (you know, that white, gelatinous muck) and stare at the floor to avoid stating the obvious, (“Um, hey Jon? I appreciate the gesture, but this tofu scramble looks like brain matter.”), I’m just so sorry.
But there are two big reasons you should give it another chance, and the first has to do with the quality of tofu products available in Korea. The plain ol’ tofu from your local mart is far better than anything you could buy at home and will, thus, automatically yield better results. Furthermore, the main problem behind your understandably fervent tofu-hating stems from a sad, sad truth: Most people have no friggin’ clue how to cook it.
Alas! No more! Good tofu is a magical thing: healthy, filling, cheap and a perfect addition to almost any meal. You can throw it in with fried rice, wrap it up in tortillas with homemade hummus and spinach, drown it in barbecue sauce and serve it alongside bowls of chili, crumble it on pizza or just eat and eat and eat it until you can’t eat anymore. Once you learn to love it, a whole new culinary world will reveal itself, and soon you’ll be festooning your fridge and cupboards with all the colors of the tofu rainbow: soft tofu, crumbly tofu, sweet tofu, tofu for stew, tofu for burgers and tofu for pie. But first, before all that, start with oil and salt. It’s your party, and you’ll fry if you want to.
Perfect fried tofu
Living where you do, among people with spectacular tofu-making skills, it almost goes without saying (almost) that you should steer toward the homemade stuff whenever possible. It’s generally found on the lower shelves of the refrigerated section in green plastic flats; just take a bag from the roll, grab a brick, tie off the bag and head for the checkout. The packaged tofu is still totally decent — albeit it more expensive and sold in smaller portions — if your local store doesn’t carry the real deal. Look for the water-packed stuff in square containers, and do not, under any circumstances, attempt this recipe with “silken” tofu (翱舒睡). That’s a whole different thing.
Ingredients 2-3 tbsp oil, 1 brick tofu, Salt to taste
The first step towards amazing tofu is to drain and dry the brick. Drain away any water and plop the whole thing on a cushion of paper towels about 5 layers thick. (You could also use toilet paper ... I won’t tell.) Place a second, identical paper towel pad on top of the brick before putting the brick between two plates on the counter. Set a coffee cup or a heavy can on top of the second plate to act as a weight, and then walk away. Let it sit for 15 minutes, up to 30 if your brand of tofu is particularly wet, then unwrap it and slice into eight even pieces.
Using your largest skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame until it’s shimmery. Gingerly lay the slices down in the oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until you start to see some golden brown color creeping up the sides of each slice. Flip the tofu very, very carefully like you would a pancake, then cook for an additional 4 minutes. Remove the slices to a plate and serve.