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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Trying Tofu - Is It Really Like Meat?

#Tofu #Veggie #Vegetarian #Cooking #VegetarianMeals #GoVeggie #MeatlessMeal #NewFoods #Culinary #Food #Foodie
       How to prepare tofu:
            Step 1: Throw it in the trash.
            Step 2: Grill a steak.

       Just kidding! Not too long ago, I tried tofu. It was my first time cooking it, and my first time eating it outside of miso soup. Now, I'm a major meat-lover, so anything that claims to be "just like the real thing" is met with extreme skepticism. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go.

      I chose an extra firm tofu, and did a quick search online for tips on preparing it. I cut it into half inch cubes, and prepared some vegetables to go along with it. I added garlic, bell pepper, onion, ginger root, and a handful of sunflower seeds for texture.

       Speaking of texture, yes, I tried a cube of raw tofu. It was awful. It tasted like bland, dry, "meat?", and it was about the consistency of an overcooked chicken nugget that had gone cold. All in all, that was not a pleasant experience.

       An internet search told me that Tofu should be crispy. It said to fry the tofu by itself in soybean oil, before adding any veggies. Lacking soybean oil, I used olive oil. I also couldn't bring myself to not season the food while it was cooking, so I threw in some garlic, a few sunflower seeds, and some salt and pepper. It soaked up the oil frighteningly fast! With that in mind, I tried to use it sparingly. I sauteed the tofu this way until it was golden brown on the outside.

       Out of curiosity, I tasted it again. This time, it was a little better. It still had the consistency if ground chicken, but the outside had a crusty bite to it. The flavor was meat-like without really tasting like any meat in particular. I call it "mystery-meat" flavor. Still, it wasn't bad. It's true that tofu takes on the flavors of what it's cooked with. I could definitely taste that salty, roasted garlic flavor, and the tangy-sweet ginger. The seasoning dominated the odd, meaty flavor. This went much better than the previous taste test.

       The real magic happened when I added the rest of the veggies. I waited until the onion and bell pepper caramelized a little bit before adding a drizzle of teriyaki sauce, a splash of soy sauce, and a small glob of oyster sauce. Yes, oyster sauce does contain some fish, so strict vegetarians should probably skip that ingredient. Some vegetarians, however, do eat some fish, and I'm not a vegetarian at all, so I didn't think it was a big deal to add a tiny bit of oyster sauce for flavor.

       When it was done, I served it over some wild rice. The result was downright edible! The inner texture was still the same, but the longer cook time had given the flavor a chance to permeate the cubes. The sauces and veggies dressed up the plain, mystery meat flavor so that it was much more palatable. There was even a detectable charred-meat texture; probably thanks to the sunflower seeds.

 Did it taste like chicken? No. It tasted like tofu. That might have been because it was tofu. However, tofu happens to taste pretty good when all is said and done, and as a meal, I liked it. Will I ever cook it again? Definitely.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to check out some of my other posts. Here's what I recommend now:
10 Foods to Fight Seasonal Allergies
Healthful, Home Made, Orange-Ginger Tea
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