Grilled Marinated-Tofu with Mushroom & Leek
Indeed- this tofu looks a little different to what I am used to eating- but then again... I think this may well be the only kind of tofu I am going to be eating from now on! I have seen marinated tofu on sale before, but have never bought it for some reason... nor had I ever eaten it until this evening! But the truth of the matter is... I have never really been impressed with "regular" to be honest- so I decided it was time to try it out!
I have always been told that tofu is versatile and great at taking-on flavors... but I always found it to have an almost water-resistant and therefore flavor-resistant and rubbery consistency. And then I did a little reading-up online... discovered what the missing step in the preparation was that made all the difference... and became a little wiser!
As it happens- my comment about tofu being almost water-resistant is both fairly accurate and also the real crux of the matter when it comes to marinating. So what you need to do is to slice the tofu a little thinner than you usually might and to dry-fry it, until it dehydrates a little. as it takes on the characteristics of a sponge to some effect and in its dried-out form soaks up moisture and flavors much, much better! It's only common sense really... so why hadn't I thought of it myself?
So, this morning before work, I cut my firm tofu into slices of just 1/2" thickness and fried them at a moderate, mild temperature for 4-5 minutes from each side in a non-stick pan. After the first 2 minutes or so, I began to press down on the slices whilst they fried- which made them make weird little wheezing noises, but also gave the tofu a mild, golden color.
Once the tofu had been fried from each side and had cooled down a little, I popped it into a Ziploc bag and added soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, finely chopped ginger, a few slices of garlic, a star anise, a little 5-spice powder, a pinch of sugar and a little cayenne. And then I zipped-up the bag, popped it into the fridge, went to work and forgot all about it... until this evening!
Well, you wouldn't believe how wonderfully aromatic it was when I took it out of the bag this evening- wow! After 12 hrs of marinating, the tofu had taken on a lovely, rich, mahogany color too which was really beautiful! As there had been sesame oil in the marinade, I decided to fry it up with no added fat- it WAS already pre-cooked after all. So I got my grill pan nice and hot and whilst that was happening, cut the tofu into smaller, more manageable slices, which I laid onto the pan and pressed down to give it some scorch-marks. Once the tofu was all done, I set it to one side and added the mushrooms and leek to the pan, with a little of the marinade from the tofu and a little splash of boiling water to deglaze the pan and bring out all of the good, toasty flavors. After a minute or two, I pushed the tofu back over the heat and stirred all of my ingredients together nicely, adding a little more of the marinade, a tiny squeeze of lime juice and hint of honey.
I served the tofu and mushrooms up with rice noodles, a light sprinkle of cilantro and a sprinkle of sesame seeds... and was thrilled to discover just how delicious something so simple can become:.. and I somehow think that you will be too!