Let’s talk about tofu. Even as a vegetarian, I don’t eat a ton of it. When I do, however, I want it crispy, and crispy tofu is an elusive beast. I’ve shared this method here and here, but I’ve perfected it for the book and gotten such fantastic feedback that I wanted to highlight it. Even tofu skeptics love this tofu. Try it, and you will see.
There are a few keys to making irresistible, crispy tofu. First of all, you want to choose the right kind of tofu. Extra-firm tofu is the only way to go, and I’ve found that the Trader Joe’s brand is the most firm of them all (plus, it’s only two dollars). It’s organic, too, which is important when you’re buying tofu because soy is conventionally treated with fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. Look for tofu in the refrigerated section by the produce.
Once you have your extra-firm tofu, the next step is to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Water-logged tofu never gets super crispy. The key here is to slice the tofu into pieces before pressing it. Have you ever tried pressing a whole block, or even two halves? They just sit in soggy puddles. Slice them into smaller pieces to maximize the surface area. Press those, and you’ll extract more moisture—faster, too.
Some people swear by cooking their tofu in a skillet, but it never turns out well in my cast iron skillets. It sticks, and the crispy bits end up sticking to the pan, which is a tofu tragedy. Plus, it requires more oil, and you don’t need to use a lot of oil to get crispy tofu.
The key is to toss it in a little oil (just 1 tablespoon for the full batch), tamari or soy sauce (for some flavor) and arrowroot starch or cornstarch. The starch makes the edges extra crispy and irresistible (I got this idea from The Kitchn). Then, just spread them in an even layer and bake for 25 minutes. Boom! Perfect tofu.
Last but not least, if you want to infuse your tofu with more flavor, I recommend adding sauce after it’s baked, rather than marinating it. Why? Water-logged tofu isn’t actually very good at absorbing flavor (something that I always suspected, which was confirmed my Deborah Madison, via Serious Eats).
Dry tofu out in the oven to crispy perfection, and then cook it in sauce, or drizzle sauce on top. This tofu is perfect for tossing into any recipe with Asian flavors, or any recipe that could benefit from some hearty vegetarian protein. It would be great in my Thai red curry or green curry. You could replace the eggs in my kale coconut stir fry and Thai pineapple stir fry with this tofu. It is amazing with peanut sauce drizzled on top, in any form.