Monday, November 15, 2010

Pan Fried Tofu, Korean tofu 101

I love tofu. They are just so good for you. They are, what we call, vegetable beef! Coming from soy beans, full of protein and calcium, sometimes I can understand why God created soy beans. Before the time when the East met West, far eastern Asians like Koreans hardly had dairy as a part of their diet. Tofu and the soy milk were the major source of calcium until the western dairy, the cow's milk, cheese, etc were introduced much later time.  

Eating tofu is better than eating soy beans though. The nutrition in soy beans can be absorbed into our body only 65% where tofu (the processed form of soy beans) delivers 95%. During the curdling process tofu keeps all the nutrition of soy beans except some vitamins.

Tofu was originated from China, about 2200 years ago in Han dynasty and was introduced in Korea around  700AD. We call them "Dubu (두부)". Koreans enjoy tofu in many different ways, in soups and stews, braise with other ingredients, mashed into make savory cakes, or simply pan fry them.

I know there are some people who are afraid of tofu due to its non-flavored mushy texture. I don't blame them because I wouldn't want to eat raw tofu either. So I would like to introduce a simple way of cooking this mushy-non flavored soy bean creature into more chewy-flavorful delicacy.

Perhaps this is, by far, the simplest Korean tofu dish you will make, level 101! But you gotta learn the technical side of it. As always I am here for you, so let the class begin!

 You must use FIRM tofu, preferably Korean.
For the sauce;
soy sauce, Korean chili flakes, sesame seeds, sesame oil, garlic, green onion, and shrimp powder.
Shrimp powder is optional but will add very nice flavor to the sauce. 
I use quite often to my recipes.
If you don't want you can omit it. But my sauce will taste better than yours, ha ha!
Click here to learn how to make shrimp powder.

 Rinse tofu first right out of package.
Place on top of paper towel (2 layers) over cutting board.
Cut the tofu in half and slice each half into 8 pieces.
That makes total 16 slices, right?

Are you still counting to 16?

 Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of tofu. 
Salt helps the tofu to firm up on the surface and season them as well.
Just a little bit, please.
Let them sit for 5 minutes.

 Heat your pan with mild oil such as grapeseed or canola over medim heat.
Use non-stick surface pan. I use my well seasoned carbon steel pan.
It creates beautiful crust on tofu.

 Press tofu with paper towel to absorb more moisture before you add to the hot pan.

 Sear the tofu for about 5 minutes. Don't bother them.
Let the oil and the heat do their job getting to know the tofu.
I like my tofu to be somewhat chewy. 
If you want softer texture 2-3 minutes is enough.

 After 5 minutes you will see the golden crust is forming on the bottom.
It is basically caramelizing.
Make sure you pan is not extremely hot, otherwise it will burn.
Adjust heat level. Medium heat was just right for my stove.

Flip the tofu slices to the other side carefully.
Do you see the golden crusts?
Let  the other side sear for another 5 minutes or so as well.
 While waiting, make the sauce with given ingredients.
Just mix them well.

You will see that they've got shrunk a little bit.
They have lost some of their moisture.
They worked hard to please you, you know...

Place them nicely on the serving platter and drizzle with the sauce.
Serve when they are warm with some rice.

Tofu is a great way to replace meat if you want to cut down the animal protein.
Low in calories and fat (except the oil to cook with),
 tons with calcium and iron.

If the ancient Europeans (or nomadic central Asians) has discovered cheese 
ancient Chinese created tofu.
This might sounds silly to some people,
I can feel the love of Creator of the earth
for allowing his wisdom to men,
to turn one of his creation into another.
It is miracle food to most Asians.
So enjoy with a gratitude...

Pan Fried Tofu
(두부부침, Dubu buchim)
makes 2-4 servings

1 package (18 oz, 510g) firm tofu, drained and rinsed
couple pinch salt
2 Tbsp grape seed oil or canola oil
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp Korean chili flakes
1 green onion finely chopped
1 garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp shrimp powder, optional
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Place tofu on top of two layers of paper towels over the cutting board. Cut the tofu in half and slice each half into 8 equal slices. This will make total 16 slices, about 3/8" thick each.
Spread each slices on the paper towel and sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

Heat your non-stick surface pan over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp of oil first.
Press each tofu slices with dry paper towel to remove some moisture and add to the hot pan. Let them sear for 5 minutes until the bottom of the tofu creates golden crust. Flip to the other side, add 1 more Tbsp oil if your pan seems dry. Continue to sear the tofu for another 5 minutes or so until they are done to your liking. 

You can adjust the time for your preference. 5 minutes on each side will create chewy texture. If you prefer softer texture 2-3 minutes should be enough.
To make the sauce, mix soy sauce, chili flakes, green onion, garlic, shrimp powder (optional), sesame oil and sesame seeds in a small mixing bowl. Place tofu slices on the serving platter and drizzle the sauce over. Serve warm with some rice.


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