Tofu gets a bad rap for being flavorless, boring, and at times undesirably rubbery—but the hate is undeserved. Avoid thinking of it as a meat substitute, let it exist on its terms, as its own thing, and be surprised by what it has to offer. Treat it kindly and you’ll be rewarded with a versatile protein that can play the field as a sweet or savory ingredient.
what is tofu?
Also known as bean curd, tofu is made from minimally processed soy milk that has been cooked and pressed into a block—essentially a vegan cheese. Depending on how much it’s drained and pressed, tofu texture can vary from very soft, fragile “silken” to extra firm. Each type is suitable for different kinds of dishes. For baked tofu, the best kind to use is firm or extra firm; anything softer will likely crumble for this recipe.
the FLAVOR IS RIGHT
Let’s address the most popular complaint about tofu: its blandness. Just like a fresh cheese—think ricotta, cottage cheese, paneer, fresh mozzarella—it is mild in flavor. Add to the fact that it’s made from relatively low-fat soybeans rather than rich, creamy cow’s milk, it’s a lot less indulgent-tasting straight out of the package. Produced and packaged with only very small quantities of salt, tofu needs to have the right background singers before its potential can truly shine. Fresh tofu isn’t very porous, which means that even if it sits in a marinade, it won’t take on a lot of flavor.
1 (14-oz.) square extra-firm tofu, depleted
2 cloves garlic, ground
1″ piece ginger, ground
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. Sriracha
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil, isolated
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. pressed earthy colored sugar
1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. heating powder
1 green onion, meagerly cut, for embellish
Toasted sesame seeds, for decorate
1.Carefully pat the tofu dry: On a cutting board, sandwich tofu between doubled layers of paper towels and press down slowly to remove moisture without cracking the block. Remove paper towels and cut tofu into 32 equal pieces: halve tofu laterally across, then cut the block into a 4×4 grid.
2.Make the marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, ginger, soy sauce, Sriracha, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, vinegar, and sugar until smooth. Set aside half this mixture and reserve for glazing later.
3.Preheat oven to 400°. Meanwhile, add tofu to the bowl and toss gently to coat in the marinade. Let sit 15 minutes, then drain off excess marinade.
4.In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and baking powder. Sprinkle over tofu and gently toss to coat evenly. Drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil and toss to coat each piece.
5.Spread tofu evenly out onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 375°. Flip tofu pieces to allow for even toasting, then return the tray to the oven and continue to bake until tofu is crispy on the outside and deeply golden, about 15 minutes more.
6.Brush with reserved marinade mixture for a glaze finish, then sprinkle with green onions and sesame.