September 01, 2022 1 Comment
Let's face it, if you are Indian and have grown up immersed in the food, tofu is not a go-to ingredient. I just does not play well agains the fiery curries and our other key dishes. If we want to eat vegetarian and get in our protein, we have numerous sources already including legumes and nuts.
I personally fell in love with tofu because of my love of everything East Asian. I lived in Japan and Hawaii, and am obsessed with Chinese and Korean food. But, when I have Indian - sorry, tofu just does not always work - unless you know how to prep it. I addressed this in my third book Indian For Everyone, where I encourage you to bake it before adding it to curries. That was good, but in the back of my mind I was always thinking about elevating the taste and texture even more. And, now I think I've nailed it. The secret is in the type of tofu (firm or extra firm), the prep (break it into chunks to mimic meat), the seasoning (a mix of cornstarch-garlic salt-ground black pepper), and the baking (elevated on a tray to give it an air-fried quality). The result is a texture that resulted in my omnivore husband saying 'What the heck is this? You said it's tofu - are you sure it's not meat?' and my 17-year-old exclaiming 'Mom, this is a mind f*ck --- it's soooo good and so much better than chicken!' (Sorry to any sensitive readers about my girl's mouth - but she was really impressed!) My girls are not huge meat eaters to begin with, but also despite loving tofu they do not like it in their Indian food. Want to watch me make a version of this recipe? Click here for my Live Facebook class.
Baked, Spiced Tofu
1 16-ounce container firm or extra firm tofu
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper *
1. Adjust your oven rack to the second-from-the-top slot in your oven and preheat your oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Most recipes call for 400, but I like my tofu a little crispier on the outside so I like the oven a little hotter. It makes a difference. The little pieces crisp up the most and are absolutely delicious.
2. Prep 1 16-ounce container of firm or extra firm tofu. The texture is important. Soft tofu will not work as well and/or you'll have to press it. With firm or extra firm I never press it. The brand I love is Ichiban. But any high-quality tofu will do. Even better if it's organic. With one hand, pull off chunks of tofu pieces to mimic pieces of chicken. Remember, eating is as much about visualization as it is taste.
3. Prepare the dry-spice-coating. In a large ziplock bag, add the cornstarch, 2 garlic salt, and ground black pepper and shake to mix. This seasoning is key because it flavors the tofu beautifully and sets the stage for a great dish later. The cornstarch adds a bit of crunch. I personally don't think it matters if you use an Indian spice here because your curry will make up for that. It also can be overkill to add it to the tofu as well. I think it's more important to have the garlic salt. It's changed the flavor of my tofu completely. * Replace the ground black pepper with any favorite spice blend for a delicious backdrop for any dish/cuisine from Mexican to Italian to Chinese, and even Thai. Want to make spicy nuggets for the game? Just swap in a spicy buffalo wings spice blend. If you want to try some of our Indian spices, I recommend Tandoori Masala or Chaat Masala. If you use the tandoori, then add these nuggets our jar of Tikka Masala for a delicious 'chicken' tikka.
4. Coat the tofu chunks. Carefully place the tofu pieces in the bag, seal the bag, and then gently turn it around until all the pieces are completely coated. This will only take a minute or two and is the absolute easiest way to coat the tofu evenly.
5. Place the pieces on a baking tray. Better yet, fit that tray with an oven-safe baking rack or basket. This will mimic an air fryer and cook the pieces from all sides without any need to flip them. No need to coat with oil, though you can if you would like. I do place a piece of parchment paper on the baking tray for easy clean up.
6. Bake for 30 minutes - not a minute less. Remove the tray from the oven to cool for 5 minutes. You will be tempted to eat them -- do it! They are darn good, but you can also save them for the next act. BUTTER TOFU 'Chicken' coming soon.
Mexican Spiced Baked Tofu:
I just replaced the ground black pepper with my favorite dry Mexican spice blend and followed the recipe above for a delicious addition to my Mexican rice bowls. You can even bake them up and then dip them into a spicy salsa before plating for a little extra extra flavor.
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