"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Do you tofu?

by Julie Tilsner on October 13, 2007

in Good Ideas Gone Bad, Dinner

Let’s all be honest with each other. Nobody really *likes* tofu, do they? Nobody smacks their lips at the thought of eating a moist, quivering slab of tofu, like they would perhaps a delicious, tangy slice of feta cheese? Even the name tofu is an exotic masking of the unpleasant truth: What we’re really eating here is fermented bean curd.

But we all want to like tofu. It’s healthy! One of the most versatile foodstuffs around. And so Zen!

And yet, tofu has never worked for me. I ambitiously buy blocks of the stuff, intending to make economical and tasty dishes my kids might eat, such as stir fry, but too often I push 90% of the block into the deepest recesses of my fridge, where it turns into that-which-cannot-be-named, and I must use tongs to throw it out.

I have had some pleasant experiences with tofu. There was a vegetarian
Chinese restaurant in San Francisco that made a delicious duck dish,
(starring tofu as the duck), and in most better sushi bars they’ll
happily let you sample the tofu they make themselves; often it’s
creamier and tastier than what you can find in the stores. My
mother-in-law in London marinates thin slabs of tofu in something or another
before frying it up and making it actually sort of tasty, although I have never
been able to recreate this result for myself.

I was once a vegetarian, and I have many vegetarian and vegan friends. They insist (often voraciously) that tofu is marvelous. I can live on beans and rice until my dying day. I will happily agree that salad can be made delicious. I could easily agree to never put another piece of meat in my mouth. But you can’t convince me about the tofu.

In the end, tofu mocks me for not being up to its challenge. And I am resentful.

In a twist of irony, however, both my children seem to like tofu, especially when it’s in small chunks floating in miso soup. Sometimes they come to blows over who gets more pieces. They have asked me what the brownish lumps in my stir fry are and because I can’t think of a better lie, I admit that it’s tofu. And they still eat it. Sometimes they ask for more.

Clearly they don’t yet understand what tofu actually is. I am not going to be the one who informs them. Don’t let me catch you ratting me out, either. Or I’ll come over to your house and cook you dinner.

Julie’s Sorta OK tofu stir fry

Get your wok out. Or a wide frying pan.

Buy a block of extra firm tofu. Cut one-third into little cubes, best you can. Wrap up the remaining two-thirds and put in the back bottom shelf of your refrigerator.

Pour soy sauce over the chopped tofu. If you’ve planned ahead, marinate this for a few hours in the fridge. If, like me, you don’t believe in planning ahead, “marinate” for a few minutes before throwing it into the wok.

Get two tablespoons of peanut oil good and hot. Saute some garlic, a little ginger and a a couple of chopped green onions. Toss in your tofu.

Throw in some chopped veggies that are Chinese-ish in nature: Snap peas, red pepper slices, water chestnuts and those little baby corns you can buy in cans. Saute this for a few minutes.

Keep stirring. Add a tablespoon or two of soy sauce. Saute some more.

Serve over rice with kid-friendly chopsticks.

Yeah well?

Here’s a contest idea: Make the Bad Home Cook like Tofu.

The winner gets the dubious honor of having me cook, botch, and write up your recipe on this very blog.

C’mon. Show me what you got…


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

JR October 15, 2007 at 4:13 am

O.K. Jules,
On a hot day….use very fresh silken tofu, douse with soy sauce, green onions, toasted sesame seeds, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, maybe a bit of chili oil or flakes..it’s cool, silky, creamy, salty, a bit of crunch, a little spice – I love it!


Connie October 14, 2007 at 10:55 pm
elfini October 15, 2007 at 8:56 am

How timely – I just made a Tofu and Shrimp soup yesterday that went over quite well. And its damn healthy. This stupid diet has me cooking like crazy. Chris promised he wouldn’t tell anyone I was getting good at it.


westernqueensland October 15, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Truthfully, I do love tofu. Ironically my favorite tofu is what my mother-in-law makes, though if she read this we’d have to call the iron chef to protect us from her catapults or trebuchets of tofu sieging us.
Stafford the smitten


Mr Squid October 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm

I am not a great fan of tofu. I find it to be bland, tasteless, and too slick. However, extra-firm tofu, cut into bite sized cubes and stir-fried in sesame oil with red pepper flakes and served with dark greens such as spinach or kale is really good.


Sam's Mom October 16, 2007 at 2:43 pm

I admit I don’t like tofu either, Sam loves the stuff. I have a creamy & spicy soup recipe and the star in the recipe is Tofu. The ingredients sound odd but they work, it’s delicious. The best part, the tofu is hidden away, no one would be the wiser. Such an easy recipe you couldn’t possibly botch it up.
1 14 ½ oz. Can tomatoes, diced with jalapenos (I use Rotel)
1 14 ½ oz. Can pumpkin (not the kind for pie)
1 large onion chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to saute the onion)
½ tsp. Nutmeg
4 cups chicken broth (Trader Joes version works good here)
1 cup plain yogurt
6 or 7 oz. tofu (cut up in cubes)
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add nutmeg, pumpkin, tomatoes, and chicken stock simmer for 10 minutes more or less. Add the yogurt and tofu. Puree in the blender. If you have an immersion blender that works even better, not all the mess and no steam burns.


Kat October 19, 2007 at 5:56 am

Just like you, I want so badly to like tofu! I found a great recipe that actually tasted *really good* – with an indian flare. The tofu had the consistancy of chicken, I kid you not! See the recipe here:


eliza October 22, 2007 at 5:07 pm

i’m a latecomer, but you could cook fried firm/not fried firm tofu with red curry, Thai style. or even green or yellow curries. i do eat lots of tofu in my family and i guess it’s a food that you have to eat since you’re young in order to really really love it and be able to eat it almost 5 times/week 🙂


Julianne October 24, 2007 at 1:15 pm

I put silken tofu in lasagna in lieu of ground beef/turkey. Anything tastes good drenched in tomato sauce and cheese.


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