This post has been sponsored by Nasoya. All opinions expressed are my own.
Today we’re preparing a recipe that’s among my favorite uses for block tofu, particularly extra firm tofu – and we’re doing so with a little (a lot) of help from our friends over at Nasoya, US’s top producer of organic, non-GMO tofu products.
That said, we’re making ‘Tofu Steaks,’ which we’ll first be draining, and then breading in panko before pan-frying to crisped golden perfection, and then serving alongside a spicy soy dipping sauce. These are perfect as a side to things like dinner-sized dumplings and soups, or as a meal unto themselves alongside salads and rice. Easy to prepare, high protein and low in calories, this is a meal – or side or starter – that you can truly feel good about preparing for your family.
Now, without further delay, let’s get right to it.
Ingredients – Notes and Tips
1) The Tofu. The ‘meat’ of today’s recipe. Given that we’re pan-frying the tofu, and since we want only minimal absorption, we’ll be using extra firm tofu. That said, prefer Nasoya for my tofu products. The leading brand in tofu in the US, Nasoya has been producing tofu since 1978, all of Nasoya’s tofu products are organic, including Organic Extra Firm Tofu, Organic Firm Tofu, Organic Silken Tofu, and Organic Super Firm Tofu.
2) Garlic Powder vs Fresh. As I’ve stated in previous posts, the real difference between dried and fresh herbs comes down to dried herbs packing a much more concentrated ‘punch’ of flavor in much lower qualities, and being less ‘bright’ and ‘fresh’ in their flavor profiles. However, we’re using powdered garlic largely because we want the super-fine texture, as ‘clumps’ of grated or garlic would simply be an unpleasant addition to the coating, and also to avoid added moisture – as even very finely grated fresh garlic still contains a fair bit of moisture, which would imbalance the recipe.
3) Panko – For Crispy Perfection. While you can use regular breadcrumbs if preferred, or if that’s all you have on hand, I’m using Panko breadcrumbs because they crisp up so beautifully and crunchy, giving today’s recipe a nice outer layer of ‘crispness,’ which contrasts deliciously with the soft and spongy tofu interior. Panko is a type of Japanese breadcrumb produced from crust-less, coarsely ground bread, which while traditionally used for deep fried recipes, also works great in both pan frying and oven baking as well, in order to achieve a ‘deep fried’ crunch.
Tofu Basics – A Primer
1) What is Tofu, really? Tofu is simply condensed soybean curd. Since soybeans are virtually tasteless, tofu is considered one of the most ‘flavor neutral’ foods available. For this reason, tofu is a great ‘carrier’ of flavors, since when cooking with tofu you needn’t account for the taste of the tofu itself in the recipe, and can instead rely on the tofu to simply ‘carry’ or ‘take on’ the flavors that it is being prepared with.
2) Be Health-Minded in Selecting Your Tofu. It’s easy to think that your ‘being healthy’ simply by virtue of opting tofu. Sadly, this is not the case as not all tofu is created, or sourced, equally. Today, most of the world’s soybeans are grown in the US, and well over ninety-percent (!) of those soybeans are produced using GMO methods. This is another big reason why I love Nasoya products, as they are among a very select few producers of natural, non-GMO tofu.
2) Can I freeze it? Yes, tofu can keep for up to three months in the freezer. If you purchase tofu packed in water, ‘do’ drain the water first, then wrap the tofu in plastic, or place it in an airtight container or freezer bag before freezing. Do remember, however, that frozen tofu becomes ‘firmer’ after freezing, and will also be somewhat ‘dryer,’ and may lose its signature ‘spongy’ texture.
3) Preparing Water Packed Tofu. As I explain below, you need to ‘press’ the tofu between two sheets of paper towels if using water-packed tofu. I do this by wrapping my tofu in paper towel, and then placing it on a tray beneath a small cast iron pan. This drains the tofu of water, and as a result if you skip this part, the tofu will instead drain all of its excess water during cooking, and possibly break apart in the process. Not fun.
4) Types of Tofu. Tofu comes in several varieties, with the most popular and widely available being extra firm, firm, and silken, in addition to super firm and regular. Some outlets and producers have their own labeled varieties, but most fall roughly into those categories, or are variations thereof. Super firm is the densest form of tofu, and as such is also the least absorbent, meaning it’s primarily used either to prepare dried tofu, or in roasted and deep fried dishes. Generally speaking, super firm tofu is only rarely commercially available, except via specialty outlets (such as Nasoya). On the opposite end of the popularity spectrum is extra-firm tofu. When you encounter cooked, pan-fried, or marinated tofu of any kind, you’re almost always encountering ‘extra firm’ tofu. Firm tofu is the next most popular variety, being great for marinating and then eating ‘raw’ in sandwiches, wraps, or as the ‘meat’ in lightly cooked stir-fry or light soups. Silken tofu, as the name implies, has a silky and moist texture, usually such that it defies being handled without falling to pieces. For this reason, it’s used for preparing things like smoothies, dips, or as a replacement for cheese in various recipes, in particular cream cheese and ricotta.
5) Protein Content. Tofu has been recognized as a valuable source of protein for nearly a thousand years. In fact, tofu was spread across Asia from China chiefly by traveling Buddhist monks who favored it as a staple protein in their wholly vegetarian diets. Roughly eight percent of tofu’s total mass is protein, alongside high levels of folate, vitamin K, and assorted minerals, making it a nutrient dense food, meaning it is a nutrient dense food at less two-hundred calories per cup.