Yes, tofu is a healthy food but before you run away because health food recipes are a turn off, hear me out. There’s a misconception that tofu is bland. Well, by itself it is plain, but what's really appealing about it is that it absorbs flavors like a sponge making it easy to turn into flavorful dishes.
Here are a few of my favorite tofu dishes for delicious quick meals.
Tomato Tofu Soup
This is not the kind made of pork broth, tomatoes, tofu and leafy greens like in my birthplace Taiwan, I think that may be too watery to please the American palate. Instead I present a thicker, Americanized version of the soup.
To thicken the soup, I don’t use unhealthy cornstarch, I use tomato sauce. Organic tomato sauce, available at stores such as Whole Foods and Safeway, does wonderful job. California is a melting pot, so why not bring an Italian ingredient into the Chinese soup?
Mix as much tomato sauce as you want into a boiling soup made with vegetable broth, or my preference beef broth (see recipe below), both of which are easier to find than pork broth in the U.S. Add diced tomatoes, sliced tofu—silken or medium firm depending on your preference—and sliced mushrooms.
The soup will be done within minutes. Then the tofu will carry the rich taste of the tomato sauce and the pleasant flavor of mushrooms. Add some minced green onions or leafy greens like chopped bok choy before serving.
You can use canned beef broth for the soup, but homemade is so much better. Start with a pack of organic stew beef, you can find it already diced at Whole Foods; add to that two shots of rice wine and a half cup of minced garlic after pouring water into the pot. Bring it to boil on your stove on high heat and then cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Broccoli Beef (a bonus non-tofu recipe!)
I hate to waste food so I make another dish from the beef used in the broth recipe. When the broth is done the beef will be dry, so you've got to reinvent it. Stir-frying it with about three tablespoons of oyster sauce will make it juicy again. You can turn it into the classic Chinese restaurant dish, broccoli beef, by simply adding broccoli florets. Throw in some sliced papaya for color and yumminess.
Broccoli and Papaya Dried Tofu
Grab some dried tofu—also called dried bean curd or marinated bean curd—at any of Cupertino’s Chinese markets. It comes formed in brown squares packed in clear packs stored next to boxes of tofu.
Again, use oyster sauce to stir fry broccoli florets and add papaya slices with sliced dried tofu. Easy and delicious!
Hint: If you cannot find dried tofu, firm or medium firm tofu will work in the same way. But silken tofu may break too easily for a stir fry and is best reserved for soups.
Black Bean Sauce Dried Tofu
This is another tasty stir fried dish made with dried tofu, and it's also doable with firm or medium firm tofu.
Sliced dried tofu mix incredibly well with salted black beans (豆豉 in Chinese), available in clear packs on the shelves of almost every Chinese market. When you stir fry them together, preferably with canola oil for its heat tolerance and health benefits, you don't need salt or soy sauce. The salted black beans will render savory the dried tofu, add a richer flavor than salt or soy sauce, and provide more protein.
Minced garlic is optional, and adds tantalizing aromas. For a little spice, mix in a little hot sauce or crushed cayenne pepper.