There probably isn’t a food item as maligned as … tofu. Even its very name conjures up visions of “hippie food” — and when tofu is suggested as a meat substitute, it becomes the butt of endless jokes and disparaging remarks.
Tofu is generally regarded by most people as a bland, flavorless food with a peculiar, custard-like texture. Most adults in the U.S. and the rest of the world (except Asia) didn’t grow up eating tofu, and this contributes to the public’s perception that it’s a strange, exotic food that’s not even worth trying – especially since it doesn’t resemble animal-based meat in any way.
But whomsoever uttered the words, “Eating tofu is a big missed steak,” is wrong. Now you can have your steak and eat it, too … tofu steak, that is.
The much-maligned tofu is not only high in protein, low in fat, nutritious, and inexpensive (compared to its meat counterparts), but it’s also versatile. Because it is bland and doesn’t have its own flavor, it readily absorbs meaty, sugary, spicy, salty, or sweet flavors you want it to have.
As part of the UHR’s “Meatless Monday Recipe” series, I’m featuring a wonderful recipe for Grilled Tofu Steak. While there’s nothing that could ever transform tofu into a juicy beef steak, extra-firm tofu seasoned with the right combination of flavors, and then pan-fried or grilled, makes a surprisingly satisfying meal that will excite your taste buds, and might even make any meat lover choose this healthy dish frequently over a steak dinner.
For the Sauce:
2 tbsp mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-inch (length) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp sesame oil
2 spring onions, sliced
For the Cashew Tofu Steaks:
14-16 ozs firm tofu (about 500g), drained
Cornflour (for dusting)
3 tbsp mild-flavored oil
For the Cashew Edamame Salad:
5 ozs edamame, shelled
1/5-ounce (about 6g) dried wakame seaweed
5 ozs. cucumber, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Black and lightly toasted white sesame seeds
In a bowl, whisk together the mirin, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Stir in the spring onions, and set aside the sauce mixture.
Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the edamame and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove edamame from pan, drain on a colander, and pour ice-cold water on them. Put the seaweed into a bowl, pour ½ cup water over and allow it to reconstitute for a few minutes, then drain. Toss together the edamame, seaweed and cucumber in a bowl.
Cut the tofu into eight ½-inch-thick steaks. Place the cornflour in a bowl, season with sea salt and black pepper and coat each tofu steak on both sides. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and cook the tofu in batches for 2 to 3 minutes on each side till golden-brown and crisp. When cooked, put on top of paper towel to drain.
Tofu Steak with Seasonal Vegetables Arrange the tofu on plates with the edamame salad and sprinkle with sesame seeds, drizzle generously with the sauce mixture and serve with steamed rice.
Recipe Variation: If you prefer to serve the tofu steaks with a side dish other than edamame salad, you can choose to serve them with an assortment of chargrilled vegetables and mushrooms, with soy sauce and sesame oil. Or, instead of making tofu steaks, you can cut the tofu into cubes and slide them onto skewers along with seasonal veggies — like zucchini or bell peppers — to make grilled tofu kebabs!