Recipe very slightly adapted from: Simple Vegetarian Pleasure (By Jeanne Lemlin)
Where I grew up, we had a local tofu shop around the corner from my elementary school. Every morning when I walked to the school along with other students, we could see steam coming out of their kitchen window and smell cooked soy beans as they make fresh tofu from scratch. They would close when the daily batch was sold out since that’s all they had, and if you didn’t make it there by 4:30 or 5, you would most likely have to head to a super market to buy packaged stuff – So all the housewives in the area built the stop in their daily routine, including my mother. Their daughter, Fumie, was my sister’s classmate and tofu in my household always had a prefix of “Fumie’s dad’s” whenever it is served, often in miso soup or as is with simple toppings of soy sauce and grated ginger. The shop had been around for a long time in neighborhood, I figured, because Fumie’s dad was my aunt’s classmate, whom everybody in my dad’s siblings lovingly referred to as “the son of the tofu shop”.
Perhaps it is because of this sentimental and intimate relationship I had with tofu that I tend to get agitated when I hear somebody say they don’t like tofu. And usually I take it upon myself to attempt converting them without being asked to. I know. You’re welcome.
Of course fresh tofu is hard to come by in America and I find the variations available in stores here too crumbly in texture as well as coarse and bland in taste to eat with simple preparations that I’m used to (and this must be why people don’t like tofu to start with – You are surely to be disappointed if you try to use them as is in place of cheese or meat, even I wouldn’t just add plain tofu cubes to salad).
Maybe because of that, however, they seem to hold well fried or baked and absorb the flavor of the sauce or marinade quite nicely. In this dish, pan-frying tofu slices until crispy and serving with pasta and spinach, dressed in easy but scrumptious soy-ginger sauce, delightfully overcome the issues mentioned above while allowing them to taste good in its own light, rather than as a “substitute” of something else. The original ingredients included soba noodles, which is also good, but I like using whole wheat pasta for its chewy texture.
I now have a solid collection of great recipes that take advantage of characteristics of “American” tofu, and this particular dish has been my secret weapon against tofu critics and skeptics – Aside from taking them to Japan to taste Fumie’s dad’s tofu, which poses an obvious logistical challenge.
With this, please; Let tofu be tofu. And love them NOT because they are healthy, but because they are delicious!
RECIPE (2 Servings)
- ½ pound of firm tofu (half of typical packaged tofu)
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- ½ tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 oz~ whole wheat spaghetti
- ½ tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 large scallions, very thinly sliced
- 2 cups of spinach leaves, washed then stacked and julienned
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
- 4 teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon or chili oil or sprinkle or crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1-1½ teaspoon of grated ginger
- Cut the tofu in half lengthwise (if the package is not already divided). Then cut into ¼-inch-thick square slices and pat then very dry with paper towels. Cut each square into triangles by cutting a “X” from corner to corner.
- Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the tofu triangles and fry then on both sides until golden brown. Remove the tofu and place them in a large bowl. Pour ½ tablespoon of soy sauce on the tofu, toss well.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to instructions on the package.
- While pasta is cooking, make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Set it aside.
- Drain pasta and mix in tofu, along with sesame seeds and scallions. Pour dressing and toss well. Marinate the salad at least 1 hour in room temperature or up to 2 days in refrigerator. Just before serving, mix in spinach (although I actually don’t mind spinach marinated in the salad for left over as well!).