Marnina and I have had our fair share of problems cooking tofu. The first time we tried making tofu, we got the equivalent of overcooked scrambled eggs. We have had more success with the firm and extra-firm varieties, but sometimes we have tried stir-frying these tofu varieties and it has crumbled or never fried evenly on all sides. We have improved slightly by learning some tofu-cooking techniques, such as cutting it into 1-inch cubes and not constantly tossing it once it is in the pan. However, we have never completely ignored tofu because it is able to absorb marinades and seasonings like a sponge. We especially enjoy using it in strong Asian-flavored stir-fries because it absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish.
We decided on a Thai basil tofu fried rice recipe for a number of reasons. First, we had some leftover white rice that needed to be used up. Second, we love Thai flavors. Third, we love basil (we have a flourishing basil plant on our window sill). And fourth, we found a companion recipe to the fried rice recipe that called for baking the tofu, which was a happy departure from our usual method of stir-frying tofu.
Tofu is a great vegetarian protein, but some people with IBD avoid soy products because many are highly processed, and there are issues with soy and estrogen. However, if you can tolerate the tofu, and decide to just ignore the health warnings, tofu and soy protein may work just fine for you.
For those of you who cannot tolerate spicy food, we recommend omitting the Thai chili pepper. Chili peppers, and spicy food in general, tend to be a ‘trigger’ for many people with IBD. Similar to oily/greasy/fatty food, spicy food is an offender that many IBD sufferers avoid. Marnina is able to tolerate some spice (we LOVE Indian food), and not all spicy foods have a negative effect on her. Everyone has to find out what agrees or does not agree with them (a food journal is especially helpful to identify these foods). Also, certain spices, such as turmeric, have anti-inflammatory properties. At the same time however, some spices, such as garam masala, are a combination of numerous spices, some of which may irritate one’s GI system. Again, it is just trial and error. Marnina has noticed that spicy foods do not generally bother her, but large amounts of greasy, oily, or fried food will be sped through her GI system at light speed (and she will take up camp in the bathroom for the next day).
**To make this recipe gluten free (GF), just use GF Soy Sauce!**
Pictures and recipe below:
Baked Marinated Tofu
We have discovered that baking tofu makes it firmer and slightly drier, ideal for those who otherwise find its texture objectionable. Freezing and defrosting before draining it changes the texture even further, making it spongier, sturdier and able to absorb more of the marinade, but you can skip that step if you’re short on time or prefer the tofu somewhat moister.
You can also make the tofu ahead: Freeze the tofu for at least 24 hours, and up to 1 week, before defrosting. The tofu can sit in its marinade, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 day. After baking, the cooled tofu can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
2 servings (about 2 cups)
- 14 ounces (1 block) extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine, sake or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 1-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon hot chili paste
If you’re freezing the tofu, leave it in its unopened package and freeze for at least 24 hours and up to 1 week. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to defrost for 1 day. Once it has defrosted, remove it from the package and drain, then wrap it in paper towels, hold it over the sink and press with your hands to remove much of the liquid.
If you’re not freezing the tofu, drain it, wrap it in paper towels, set it on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Remove the paper towels, rewrap the tofu with fresh ones, and microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds. Repeat one or two more times, until the tofu is noticeably firmer. (Alternatively, you can press tofu: Wrap the drained block in paper towels, place on a plate, place a second plate on top and put a large unopened can of tomatoes or beans on top; let the tofu exude extra liquid for about 30 minutes. Unwrap, and pat the tofu dry.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
Stir together the sesame oil; soy sauce; the rice wine, sake or sherry; vinegar; garlic; ginger; water and chili paste in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the tofu cubes and gently toss to combine.
Bake for about 45 minutes, turning the tofu onto a different side three or four times during the baking, until the tofu is browned and most of the marinade is absorbed or evaporated.
Serve immediately, use in a recipe, or cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Spicy Basil Tofu Fried Rice
- 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons peanut oil
- 1 small Thai chili pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
- 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup Baked Marinated Tofu (see related recipe; may substitute 1 cup extra-firm tofu cubes, drained and pressed)
- 1/2 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 cup cooked brown or white rice
- 4 large basil leaves, rolled and cut crosswise into thin slices (chiffonade), plus more for garnish
Combine the soy sauce, water and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat, swirling to coat. Add the chili pepper and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the tofu and stir-fry until heated through and lightly colored, about 2 minutes.
Add the bell pepper, cooked rice and the soy sauce mixture; stir-fry until the pepper has started to soften and the liquid has evaporated, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the basil and stir-fry just until it wilts, about 20 seconds. Garnish with basil and eat immediately.
Recipe Source: “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen” by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004).