Friday, January 29, 2010

Sweet & Sour Tofu

It sounds so simple... but making stir fry has taken me YEARS to figure out.

The first challenge is the tofu. I've learned, with much trial and error over the past 10 years, that the keys to good fried tofu are 1) thorough pressing, 2) high heat and 3) patience. Start by pressing your tofu (preferably some kind of fresh stuff. I use Surata from here in Eugene). I cut the block in half, place the halves side by side on a towel, cover with a towel, and place a stack of plates on top (any heavy thing will do). Then leave it for about 20-30 minutes before cutting into pieces for frying.

When you're ready to fry it, make sure you have your oil (a few tablespoons) and pan nice and hot before you add the tofu. (I use a mixture of canola and sesame oil usually, and have a well-seasoned wok.) When you add the chunks, give it a nice stir to coat with the oil, and then let it fry. Stir occasionally, but not too much. You want it to get a nice golden coating, and that won't happen if you stir too much or the temperature is too low. Oh, and I like to add some Szechwan seasoning to it as it fries. Yum!

For a stir fry, I usually make the tofu first, then set aside on a plate with paper towels and add it back in later.

Now for the vegetables. You want to prepare all of these ahead of time (like when your tofu is pressing). Also a good idea: separate the veggies into different bowls based on the amount of time they will take to cook. For example, put your onions and peppers and any other "hard" veggies together as they will go in first and cook longest. Put your beans, pea pods, broccoli, or other veggies that will take less time together for dumping in later.

Last night, I used an onion, a red bell pepper, green bell pepper, ginger, broccoli, and canned pineapple in the stir fry. In the summer, I'd use more fresh stuff like pea pods, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers (in addition to onions). So it's really all about what you like. For sweet and sour, though, I always use pineapple!

So, stir fry up your veggies till they are done to your liking, turn the heat down to low or medium-low, then add the tofu back in and then the sauce till it's heated through.

Sauce. To be honest, I usually use store-bought sauce and have no particular brand loyalty, though I try to get something with ingredients I recognize. Last night, though, I made a sauce and it turned out pretty good. I combined a small can of tomato sauce, white wine and apple cider vinegar, a combo of brown sugar, white sugar, honey, and molasses (I only had a little of each, so why not?), soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and salt. To taste. It was like a tangy BBQ sauce, but it worked.

I cooked some basmati rice at the same time all this was going on and we had ourselves a delicious, and mostly healthy meal!

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