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Old 11-07-2011, 10:30 PM   #1
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Unhappy Has Anyone Ever Cooked Tofu Before?

Hi, y'all, so I cooked this tofu recipe today except I'm not a big fan of scallions and I didn't have rice vine vinegar. As I was frying the garlic, tofu, ginger, and onions together, I started to get really excited! The scent was amazing! But after I added the sauce, the mixture got kind of thick and goopy..I don't know what I did wrong (perhaps no rice wine vinegar in the sauce?) but the sauce was not pleasant! It's still sticking to my stomach and it tasted like nothing...does anybody have any suggestions for improving this recipe? Thanks!
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces firm or extra firm tofu, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and cut into slices
  • 1 small bok choy, sliced and coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Directions

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or wok. Stir in onions and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tofu and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. In a small sauce pan combine water, rice wine vinegar, honey and soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes and stir in cornstarch mixture. Simmer until sauce thickens. Add carrots and bell pepper to the skillet and cook for another 2 minutes. Add bok choy to skillet and toss to coat. Pour thickened sauce over vegetables and tofu. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately with rice.

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Old 11-07-2011, 10:45 PM   #2
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The thick and goopy is a result of the cornstarch slurry.

Just reading, everything seems to jive so I am unsure.

I would use stock instead of the water, kick up the garlic and ginger. The acid from the mirin would deff be a nice addition, I would do sugar instead of the honey, and I would make sure that all the aromatic of the dish got really roasty toasty to build up the flavor. Also, some red pepper flake, and a tiny bit of sesame oil, but that is up to you. I would lean towards dusting the tofu in cornstarch and frying it too, but that's just because I like the crunch it gives the otherwise soft tofu.

Also, adding the thickened sauce to the end product MAY make it thicker due to reduction, how long did you let it go for after adding the sauce?


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Old 11-07-2011, 10:57 PM   #3
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Ahh I see...well I let the tofu cook for a bit too long already so I just threw in the sauce in the skillet, let it simmer for about a minute (trying to loosen the goop as much as possible), and then poured to dish out of the skillet...would it have cooked better if I let the sauce-tofu combo sit for a bit more? And how exactly does cornstarch cook? If I let it sit for a few more minutes, would it have gotten more liquidy? :) Thanks!
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Old 11-07-2011, 11:05 PM   #4
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The cornstarch starts forming long molecular strands to thicken, unlike roux, it WILL break after a while and loose its' thickening ability. If you cooked it longer, it would have just gotten thicker, I would have recommended thinning it with a liquid of your choice. When it starts to thicken, it happens fast, you just have to keep an eye on it. . .you can always add more, you can't take it away.

If you ever get the chance to see a guy really working a Wok station, you will see that all of the mise en place is together in separate containers, and the slurry is spooned in dead last, and starts with a small amount and adjusts from there.

It's all a learning experience. You will get a better feel for it as you experiment more.
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Old 11-07-2011, 11:34 PM   #5
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all i have to say is while tofu is healthy for you, it serves mankind better between walls in a house. only puffed rice cakes have a higher "r" value and about the same amount of culinary worth..

just kidding, welcome nav.
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Old 11-07-2011, 11:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TATTRAT View Post
The thick and goopy is a result of the cornstarch slurry.

Just reading, everything seems to jive so I am unsure.

I would use stock instead of the water, kick up the garlic and ginger. The acid from the mirin would deff be a nice addition, I would do sugar instead of the honey, and I would make sure that all the aromatic of the dish got really roasty toasty to build up the flavor. Also, some red pepper flake, and a tiny bit of sesame oil, but that is up to you. I would lean towards dusting the tofu in cornstarch and frying it too, but that's just because I like the crunch it gives the otherwise soft tofu.

Also, adding the thickened sauce to the end product MAY make it thicker due to reduction, how long did you let it go for after adding the sauce?


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+1 for the red pepper flakes. Or some cayenne powder. Maybe even about 4 tablespoons of Oyster Sauce. I agree with eveything you've said Tattrat.
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Old 11-08-2011, 02:24 AM   #7
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Thank you all so much for the help! I'll definitely try mixing in some pepper flakes, mirin, and sesame seed oil next time I attempt tofu stirfry! ...and err, leave the sauce for last. It might take a few tries before I get it right! :)

Hahah I'm big fan of all kinds of protein, buckytom! Better between the walls of my stomach, that's what I say! :)
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:45 AM   #8
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Vinegar has such a sharp taste that omitting it from a recipe is a drastic change. If you don't have it next time, at least substitute with another acid like maybe lemon juice.

1 teaspoon cornstarch slurry for 1/4 cup of liquid sounds excessive to me. But in any case, remember TAT's advice to add the slurry in controlled amounts until you get the sauce consistency you like. It's normal cooking not to use all the slurry in a recipe. Cornstarch is the thickener of pie fillings; use too much of it and your stirfry sauce will become pudding.

I eat a lot of tofu. My stomach's tougher than bricks.
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Old 11-08-2011, 11:21 AM   #9
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General tofu advice
Unless you want it soft and mushy (like dessert) get the water out. Sit something heavy on top of the tofu over a colander that way it stays together
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Old 12-04-2011, 01:40 PM   #10
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It looks to me the problem is with the cornstarch thickening. As TAT said, cornstarch forms lumps after being heated too long.

Thickening is a tricky technique in Chinese cuisine. If it's used well, it really adds a glaze to your dish. But it's also easy to screw up with it.

Steps:

Mix cornstarch with cold water. Stir thoroughly until the cornstarch is completely dissolved in water. Add the mixture on top of food in the wok and stir gently and quickly to make the water-starch mixture completely blended with the sauce in wok. With the effect of heat, it will form a smooth and glazing layer that covers the food. Remove the food from heat right away. Being heated too long will form starch lumps and damage the texture.

Key points:
Thickening is the last step of your dish. Do it after everything else is done.
Stir, stir, stir. Keep stirring to prevent starch lumps form.
Do it really quickly. Remove from heat right away.
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