Unless you’re a hardcore whole foodie, a lot of people I know turn their noses up at tofu. It’s squidgy, bland and it smells funny. It took me a long time to work out what to do with it. So here comes the disclaimer: this stuff is good, really good! Even people who don’t like tofu love my spicy baked tofu.
Tofu is a blank canvas so the sky’s the limit when it comes to infusing it with flavours. The key is in the preparation and I only figured this out recently. You have to press tofu. The yucky smell is the water that’s inside the little holes in the block of tofu. Once you get the water out, there’s more room to get the flavours in. I haven’t figured out where to get a tofu press from in Europe so I got one from the US. If you can’t get your hands on a tofu press, put your block of tofu in a colander with a plate and a weight on the top.
I’m impatient. It’s in my nature. Before I got the press, I tried pressing the tofu with the whole ‘plate plus weight’ thing and it’s going to end with broken china and tears because it’s not stable. So instead I would press it with my hand and basically rip it to pieces. The advantage of ripping it is the jaggedy edges which crisp up so nicely when baked.
Squeeze the tofu with your hands. It will start to break. Don’t panic. Wrap the block in a clean tea towel and keep squeezing and moving the block to dry bits of the tea towel until there’s no more water coming out of the tofu. If in the process the block has broken into bits, tear it into chunks. The little bits that break off can still be used so don’t waste anything except the weirdo tofu water.
Then dump the tofu mess into a bowl and add your marinade, just enough to coat the tofu. You don’t want it swimming in marinade. I use my Japanese dressing with minced ginger added. Stir it round and put the bowl into the fridge, ideally overnight. Stir from time to time (before you go to bed, I’m not suggesting sleepwalking).
When it’s had a good while to sit in the marinade, spread out the tofu and the spare marinade on a baking sheet and put under the grill on a high heat. I’ve tried baking it in the oven but the grill works best. Turn halfway through – it takes about 20 minutes. Watch the little crumbs to make sure they don’t burn.
You can break it up all small and use it as spicy tofu mince which is delicious or you can serve chunks. This is a spicy, crispy, revelation kind of tofu.