Real Men Don’t Eat Tofu

. . . unless it’s cooked the right way and my friend Randal Miller knows how to do just that. He fries it like onion rings and tops it with sweet and sour sauce. Delicious! Tofu gets a bad rap because some say that it’s like eating cardboard, but tofu doesn’t deserve this reputation. Poor tofu suffers from being misunderstood!!

As I mentioned before, I was raised by a mother who was a vegetarian during a time when most people didn’t know what that was. Vegetarians have to work a little harder than meat eaters to get enough protein in their diets. Tofu is the only plant based food that has all nine essential amino acids so it’s a complete protein source. In other words, you’d probably get along okay if you were stranded on a desert island and only ate tofu. Tofu is just curdled soybean milk and comes in soft, medium and firm textures. In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse, it behaves like a sponge and takes on the flavor of anything you add so it’s quite versatile.

Every Friday afternoon mother and I would go to Ota Tofu, a small factory in Portland’s old Chinatown. The storefront was a bright turquoise blue and the air was humid and loaded with an earthy, sweet fragrance. The folks who worked there did not speak English so mother would hold up three fingers and say “three please”. And out we’d go with three warm one-pound bricks of freshly made tofu which is entirely different than the kind you buy at the store – like the difference between loaves of fresh bread from a neighborhood bakery versus store bought bread.

Randall knows I don’t eat much meat so when he invited me to dinner, he bought some tofu. Despite my upbringing, I hadn’t eaten tofu in quite a while and I remember my mother used to bake it. But Randall had just fried some onion rings, so he thought to cook it like that.

Fried Tofu Crisps

1 pound tofu
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup breadcrumbs or panko
½ teaspoon salt or seasoning salt
2 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying

In a shallow bowl combine the cornstarch, breadcrumbs/panko and salt. Cut the tofu into rectangular cubes, dip them into the eggs and then coat with the crumbs. Fry them until they are that KFC golden brown color (I used rice bran oil, my favorite oil for frying, in my cast iron skillet). We dipped them in the apple bourbon sauce I wrote about a couple of months ago (please feel free write me if you need the recipe). Did I make a tofu convert out of Randal? I think so!