Rules are made to be broken. Even in the kitchen. While this is a pretty simple comfort-food kind of meal (a healthier alternative to reaching for that Chinese take-out menu after a long day), it’s also just a tad rebellious. You won’t be able to taste the rebellion (unless you add some chili paste, of course — more on that in a bit) but you’ll know it’s there.
What on earth does rebellion have to do with a simple stir-fry? Well, let’s start by discussing what most people will tell you is the #1 tofu rule: press it. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that the secret to great tofu is to get all the moisture out of it so it crisps up better. It seems everyone and their mother has their own tofu pressing method – press it at an angle, so it doesn’t sit in its own water; cut it into small pieces before pressing; freeze it before pressing … I could go on for a while here. And yes, I’ve done some of these, and yes, they do yield crispy tofu. But is it better tofu? And is it worth the hassle/time of pressing? In many cases, I would (gasp!) say absolutely not.
With one exception – I do press my tofu when I need it to look visually stunning. Pressing and then browning it really well definitely does the trick there. But in terms of taste, I actually like my tofu better when it’s not pressed. And I definitely prefer not having to plan ahead when I want a quick dinner – tofu has always been my gold standard for a quick meal and pressing it takes that quality away completely.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that I like my tofu mushy and soggy. But if you buy the right brand (Fresh Tofu Inc. is especially firm and dry and Nasoya Extra Firm is usually okay too, after a bit of light squeezing) and fry it up with some gluten-free soy sauce, it’ll be flavorful + tender with some lovely crispy bits – better than the overly chewy and sometimes dry quality you get when you go the press + brown-all-around route.
Confused? Don’t worry – my rebellious tofu is detailed in this recipe, so you can feel free to try it for yourself and see what you think. And if you’re a tofu pressing fanatic – no worries. You can definitely go ahead and press your tofu for this recipe if you must. As long as I don’t have to do it!