Monday, August 2, 2010

Taking the easy way out with tofu

Dubu jorim, braised tofu in Korean cuisineImage via Wikipedia

I've been eating tofu for years at Asian restaurant in North Jersey and elsewhere, and buying prepared tofu at Korean supermarkets, but I've never tried to prepare it until now.

Since the mid-1990s, when I discovered Korean food, one of my favorite meals out has been soft-tofu stew, accompanied by steamed white rice, crunchy kimchi and bean-sprout side dishes, and a fresh egg to break into the furiously bubbling broth.

On every visit to H Mart, the Korean supermarket once known as Han Ah Reum, I try to pick up a package of prepared braised tofu (photo).

A favorite appetizer of mine at Japanese restaurants is Agedashi Tofu -- a big block of cooked tofu in a soy sauce-based broth.

But last week, I saw firm tofu for sale at Costco in Hackensack ($3.59), one of the new items designed to appeal to its many Asian customers, and brought home a package. 

Inside were three 19-ounce tubs of tofu in water, more than I expected. Firm and extra-firm tofu are best for cooking.

I did some research on the Internet, and went to work, setting out a plate of flour, a bowl with egg whites and a little water, and a second plate with large Japanese breadcrumbs called panko.

Meanwhile, I heated up a cup or so of extra-virgin olive oil in a 10-inch frying pan. I cut the tofu into sticks about two inches long and one inch high.

Then, I placed the tofu into flour, egg whites and panko before putting them into the hot oil. I turned them with two wooden utensils, but could have cooked them longer. Some were light brown, but the last few were dark brown. All were crunchy with a custard-like interior. 

I plated them, added Korean hot-pepper paste with vinegar from a squeeze bottle and went to town. You can add any hot sauce, even tomato sauce, to make the bland tofu palatable. 

I served the tofu with baked prawns in chili spices and organic spinach blanched quickly in boiling water, then sauteed in a little olive oil with salt and garlic powder.

Next, I plan to pour egg whites into a 10-inch pan with olive oil and when they set, add layers of sliced tomatoes, tofu and reduced fat cheese, plus spices. This frittata is finished under the broiler. I see no reason why you can't add spinach, too.

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