Let’s talk about your fears for a minute. Not the what’s hiding under the bed sort of fears, or the scary clown sort of fears. Let’s talk about your fear of tofu for a sec, okay? Yup, you – the one that looks the other way when passing the little square boxes in the produce section. You need to embrace your fear, look it in it’s little white plastic face and say I can master you. If I learn to cook that scary looking white square correctly, then it will be oh-so-tasty and I will be so happy to have tofu in my tummy! Go ahead, pick up a box and bring it home – for today make it a box of extra-firm.
Wait, lets back up for a second. If you really want to embrace your tofu side (you do have one – it’s in there – you just don’t know it yet), then you need to learn just a little bit about the types. Here is an insanely quick and brief sum-up of the most common types of fresh tofu:
- Silken – Soft and creamy, silken tofu is the go-to choice for smoothies, works well as a dairy replacement in many things and even makes an unbelievably good chocolate pie!
- Soft – This is the softest “block” style tofu. It works well in soups and stews and is might just be what was in that container of miso soup from your sushi take-out. It also makes great ice creams and desserts.
- Firm – Unlike silken, moisture is removed to make this tofu hold together. This is a very versatile product and can be baked, fried, battered, or used in almost any dish in place of meat.
- Extra Firm – I like the texture of this tofu that holds together well when cubed. Because it is a little denser than firm tofu, I prefer the slight chewiness of extra firm tofu. This is my choice for stir-fry, and for the spring roll recipe featured in this post.
Like I mentioned this is a way over-simplified explanation of four of the many types of fresh tofu. If you want an in-dept primer on the topic, I highly recommend this post from Serious Eats.
Okay, so now back to mastering your fears. Once you have your tofu home, you need to give it just a little TLC to make it shine. Unless you are using silken tofu, you’ll need to drain any excess water out of the package, then dry the tofu very well. Most people will tell you that you need to press most block-style tofus by placing the tofu between two towels and placing a weight on top of it. I’ll be honest, I don’t do this unless I am aiming for a crispy finished product. I just dry it off really well and move on. So that’s what we will do.
The single most important thing you need to know about tofu is that it will taste like whatever flavors you add to it. That means add good flavors to it and it will taste good. In this recipe I make a simple char siu sauce with hoisin, ketchup and honey. Char Siu is the red sauce that usually coats pieces of barbecued pork. I substitute tofu for the pork (and I kicked the red food coloring to the curb too). I marinate the tofu in the sauce, use a little sauce in the spring roll filling and then serve the remaining sauce as a dip for the finished spring rolls. The great thing about tofu is that, unlike animal proteins, there is no food-safety issue by reusing the marinade (assuming you keep it in the fridge).
Okay, you have tofu, it is dry, it has flavor; what’s next? Cook it up, cube it up, toss it with veg, roll it up, then fry it, right? STOP! Whoever said you have to deep-fry spring rolls (or egg rolls), is wrong. You only need enough oil in the bottom of the pan to crisp up the wrapper. A dozen spring rolls are deliciously crispy with only two tablespoons of oil. That not only makes them a lot more healthy, but it doesn’t make a huge mess either!
Okay, so you now have everything you need to beat your tofu fear. You can do this! The only question left is are you hungry? Enjoy!
- 1-14 ounce extra firm tofu (such as Nasoya Brand)
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or peanut oil
- 2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 2 cups stemmed, sliced shiitaki mushroom
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 recipe char siu tofu (above), cubed
- 2 tablespoons marinade reserved from char sui recipe
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 12 egg roll wrappers (such as Nasoya)
- Combine the hoisin, ketchup and honey in a bowl. Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Place the tofu slices on a doubled piece of paper towel. Place another doubled paper towel over the tofu and press lightly to remove excess liquid. Spread the marinade over the tofu, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to one day.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the tofu from the marinade and reserve the remaining marinade. Place the tofu in the preheated pan. Cook the tofu for three minute or each side, or until it is brown but not yet burnt.
- Heat a large skillet or fry pan (or a wok) over high heat. Add the sesame oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and saute for two or three minutes until they begin to give up their water. Add the bean sprouts, cabbage and carrots and cook for another minute or two or until they just begin to wilt. Add the tofu along with the 2 tablespoons of char siu sauce and the soy sauce. Stir together and transfer the filling to a plate or tray to cool.
- Allow the filling to cool completely before filling the spring rolls. emove from the heat and allow to cool. Place a wrapper in front of you on a clean dry surface so that it forms a diamond shape. Imagining the wrapper is a baseball diamond, dip a finger in water and dampen the space from first to third base. Divide the filling into twelve equal parts and place one part of the filling where the pitchers mound would be, spreading it out toward first and third bases. Fold home base over the filling and then fold first and third bases over the filling as well. Then finally, roll the spring roll up toward second base and use your finger to make sure the roll is sealed. Move the spring roll to a plate or try lined with parchment or waxed paper and repeat until all the rolls are made.
- Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I use peanut oil) and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add half the spring rolls on one side. Cook for two or three minute until that side is golden brown then use a pair of tongs to rotate the rolls 90 degrees. Continue to cook and turn the spring rolls until every side is golden and crispy. I leave the ends as is, but you can also cook the ends if you want. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and repeat with the remaining spring rolls. Serve hot with the remaining reserved char siu sauce for dipping.
- To make these vegan use rice paper wrappers, and substitute your choice of sweetener for the honey.