Cooking Techniques

An overview of what sort of tofu you use for each type of preparation:

Silken and regular      - raw, steam, heated
Firm and extra-firm    - raw, steam, stew, pan-fry, stir-fry, scramble, deep-fry, roast,
                                        barbecue and grill
Super-firm                   - raw, fry, deep-fry, barbecue and grill

Which oil should I use?
Choose the type of oil that best compliments your tofu dish. Extra virgin olive oil is best used when preparing a tofu salad or drizzling for a last touch before serving. Use a good olive oil for a Mediterranean-style tofu salad or sesame oil or roasted peanut oil for an Asian tofu salad. For pan-frying and especially deep-frying, it’s best to use neutral oils with high smoke points, like arachide oil and sunflower oil. You can also use coconut oil, which will give your dish a distinct flavour.

Ghee can be used to pan-fry tofu. Ghee is clarified butter, originating from Ayurvedic cooking. It has a very high smoke point and a very specific taste. Since ghee is a dairy product, it’s not suitable for vegans. Ghee contains lactose.

Preparation Methods

All types of tofu can be safely eaten raw. The firmer the tofu, the coarser the texture. So cut raw firm or super-firm tofu into quite small pieces, as otherwise it will feel quite coarse when eaten. Use raw silken tofu for smoothies and dips, and raw smoked and seasoned tofu in stews and salads. Grate and marinate raw extra-firm tofu for salads.

This is the only way to prepare silken tofu for a hot dish. Cut the tofu into small cubes, place in a preheated soup bowl and pour hot broth or soup on top.

Steaming is an easy and healthy way to prepare tofu, and ensures a velvety smooth texture. You should only steam regular or silken tofu; other types of tofu are too firm. Place the natural tofu in a container and put this container in the basket of a steamer. Cover the pan and bring the water in the lower pan to a boil. Steam the tofu for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the tofu from the steamer, cut into pieces if you wish, cover with a (warm) marinade or sauce, and then sprinkle fresh sliced green onions on top.

You can stew tofu to let it absorb the flavours of a broth or sauce; this gives the dish a nice velvety texture. Use firm or extra-firm tofu for stewing. You don’t need to pat the tofu dry. Cut into small cubes for a soup and medium-sized cubes for a sauce. Add the tofu for the last 10 to 15 minutes of the preparation to allow it to absorb the flavours. Make sure the dish only simmers to prevent the tofu cubes from breaking into smaller pieces.

All types of firm-tofu are great to pan-fry. You get a crispy outside but the tofu stays soft and warm on the inside. Before cooking, make sure the tofu is properly dry. First heat a pan and add a thin layer of oil with a high smoke point. Leave the oil to heat up fully. Pan-fry the tofu and turn regularly so all sides get brown and crispy. Lift the tofu out using a skimmer and let it dry on paper towel, if desired.

One of the most delicious ways to prepare tofu is in a wok. Cut the tofu into 1x1 cm cubes and marinate as desired. Heat the wok and then add a few tablespoons of oil and heat thoroughly. Add the tofu cubes to the oil, and stir-fry using a large spatula. Remove from the hot oil with a skimmer and leave the cubes to drain on paper towel. Prepare the remainder of your stir-fry and add the tofu cubes back in at the end.

For stir-frying we recommend only firm and extra firm tofu, or tofu à la minute. These pieces of tofu are pre-marinated and pre-cooked and only need to be heated up with the other ingredients.

Use ‘scrambled’ tofu or tofu that has been crumbled with a fork. Heat a pan with oil over medium heat. First, pan-fry onions and/or vegetables until half-cooked. Add the tofu and fry for about 5 minutes. Add a sauce if desired – like tamari or soy sauce for an Asian dish, or pesto or tomato sauce for an Italian dish – and fry for another 2 minutes.

Tofu gets a crispy outside and a golden-brown colour when deep-fried yet remains soft on the inside. Pat the tofu dry before deep-frying to avoid splattering, or dip the tofu in rice flour or potato flour. Heat the oil in a deep fryer at 180°C, or heat a substantial amount of oil in a wok. Using a skimmer, carefully lower the tofu in the oil. Move the tofu around occasionally until all sides have browned. Spoon the golden-brown fried tofu out of the pan and drain on paper towel. We don’t advise deep-frying silken and regular tofu, as it falls apart. Although it helps to roll these types of tofu in a batter, it’s still not very easy to cook.

In the oven
When roasted in the oven, tofu comes out crispy on the outside with a great bite, so is ideal for nugget-style meals and snacks. The thinner the tofu slices, the crunchier the result. Dry the tofu, marinate as desired and brush with oil. Line a baking tray with baking paper and distribute the tofu pieces evenly; roast for 20 to 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 180°C until golden brown. Turn the tofu once or twice so every side gets brown. This preparation technique can be used for firm and extra-firm tofu.

On the barbecue
Grill tofu on the barbecue for a nice smoky taste. For the best results, use firm, extra-firm or super-firm tofu, which contains little moisture. Cut the tofu into (not too thin) slices or smaller cubes. Dry and marinate it, put the cubes on a skewer, and brush with oil. Barbecue the slices or skewers for 4 to 8 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. To give it more flavour, brush the tofu with extra marinade while grilling. If possible, use a special grill top to prevent the tofu pieces from falling into the flames.

On a grill pan
To make tofu with grill marks: Cut firm, extra-firm or super-firm tofu into (not too thick) slices and carefully press out the water. Marinate and brush with oil before grilling. Heat the pan thoroughly. Depending on the thickness of your tofu slices, grill 4-6 minutes on each side. Don’t turn too often or the pieces might crumble. For extra flavour, brush the tofu with the marinade while grilling.