I discovered the joys of tofu as a college student trying Thai food for the very first time. But I could never really figure out how to cook the tofu so that it came out like the wonderful pad see-ew or Pad Thai I got at restaurants. If I’m honest, I still haven’t mastered it.
So, instead, I’ve found an alternative way to make tofu that tastes amazing, has a million uses, and yes, even works in noodle dishes. That’s right; it’s baked tofu.
The thing is frying tofu just right is very difficult, but baked tofu is about impossible to mess up.
Plus, it comes pre-flavored with the saltiness of soy sauce and the spiciness of sambal oelek. Oh, and there’s wine. And that, combined with time, is about all it takes to transform the flavorless, spongy soy protein into something that is good enough to eat by itself.
I couldn’t even tell you where I initially found the recipe, but I know the blog post similarly raved about the ease. And frankly, I think I added the sambal oelek. I just know that I make it often enough, and it’s easy enough that this is the first time I’ve written it down.
My favorite uses for it are for spring rolls, stir fry (but keep it separate, otherwise it absorbs the liquid), and simple vegetable wraps. But options are endless as long as you have the delightful base.
Here’s what I did:
- 1 (18 oz.) container tofu (extra firm is preferred but firm will work in a pinch)
- ¼ c. soy sauce
- ¼ c. white wine (or water, or cooking sherry)
- 1 heaping T. sambal oelek (usually found in the Asian section, or Sriracha will work in a pinch)
- 1 T. sesame oil (optional)
- Canola oil
Open and drain the tofu. Then, press it to drain more of the liquid for at least an hour. I’ve worked out a system where I use the sheet pan as the catch for the excess liquid, then place an upside-down rounded plate on top of the sheet pan, put the tofu on the plate, and then use a heavy lid like for a Dutch oven or another plate with a weight on top to press the tofu. (This can also be done a day in advance, and store the drained tofu in a Tupperware.)
Once the tofu is strained, cut it into 15 to 20 long slices. Again, I use the overturned plate to do my cutting so I don’t dirty more dishes.
Heat the oven to 325.
Then, mix together the soy sauce, wine, sambal oelek and sesame oil, if using.
Rinse and dry the sheet pan, and then coat it with canola oil. Place the slices of tofu on the sheet pan in a single layer. Brush on about half of the soy sauce mixture, and let sit for 5 minutes so the tofu absorbs most of the flavorful liquid, Turn over the slices carefully, and brush the remaining sauce on the other side. Let it absorb into the tofu for another 5 minutes. It’s OK if not all the liquid absorbs.
I usually spray with a little more oil because I’m paranoid it’ll stick.
Bake the tofu for 15 minutes, take out of the oven, and *carefully* flip over the slices. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until nice and browned and the liquid absorbed. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!