How to Steam Tofu

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Steamed tofu served with brown rice and broccoli
Steamed tofu served with brown rice and broccoli (Image: marcomayer/iStock/Getty Images)

Start to Finish: 50 minutes Servings: 1 to 2 Difficulty Level: Easy

Don't mistake tofu's versatility for blandness -- if tofu-haters have one primary complaint, it's that they find it bland. It's not the tofu, though, but the cooks -- or, more precisely, their preparations -- that are boring. It's true tofu has little flavor on its own. And although a steamed block of tofu in itself doesn't sound tempting, it's what you do after steaming -- such as marrying tofu with select aromatics and sauce, as in the Korean dish dubuseon -- that entices you.

Ingredients

Steaming

  • 1 14-ounce package block tofu, firm or extra-firm

Dubuseon

  • 1 8-ounce chicken breast, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 chili pepper, thinly sliced

Basic Steaming Method

Line a plate with a lint-free kitchen towel and place the tofu on it. Place a second towel on top of the tofu.

Set a plate or pan on top of the tofu. Weight the plate or pan with a 16- to 20-ounce can.

Press the tofu like this for 45 minutes, and then remove the towels. Cut the tofu into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes.

Bring the water in a stovetop steamer to a boil and add the tofu. Cover and steam for 7 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, place the tofu in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Microwave the tofu on high for 5 minutes. The 5-minute cooking time is based in a 1,000-watt microwave.

Preparing Dubuseon

Press the tofu for 45 minutes. While waiting, mix the chicken with the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, black pepper and sesame oil, and set it aside.

Slice the tofu crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces, and steam it for 7 minutes. While the tofu steams, saute the scallions and garlic in vegetable oil until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken to the pan.

Saute the chicken until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Mix 1/2 cup of cold water with 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch and add it to the pan.

Take the tofu from the steamer while the sauce simmers. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed with kosher salt.

Take the sauce off the stove and stir in the pine nuts and sesame seeds. Serve the sauce over the tofu and garnish with the sliced peppers.

Cooking Notes and Tips

Fry firm or extra-firm tofu in a marinade after steaming for caramelization and flavor infusion. Cold marinades aren't effective on tofu. You might get a hint of flavor from residual marinade on the surface, but steaming effectively wipes that away. Instead, steam the tofu for 3 minutes and saute it in a dry nonstick saute pan until golden brown. Next, add a marinade and cook the tofu over low heat until glazed.

Substitute firm silken tofu for firm block tofu. The steaming technique is the same, but you do not press it first. Silken tofu works best in applications where firmness isn't required, such as purees, soups and sauces.

References

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