Why It Works
- Freezing the tofu first, then boiling it gives the tofu a firm, dense texture.
- Frozen tofu has a greater capacity to absorb the braising liquid.
My love of frozen tofu began by accident. Stuck with a glut of half-used packages, I threw the blocks into the freezer and promptly forgot about them for weeks. Then, rifling through the fridge one day, I found the frozen tofu tucked away.
Yellowed and leathery, the blocks bore no resemblance to the fresh version. Still, not wanting to waste all that soy goodness, I tossed the tofu blocks into boiling water and waited.
The tofu emerged from the water looking considerably more appealing. No longer tan, the block had become white and pliable. I chopped the tofu into smaller squares before adding them to a braised pork dish. The result? Some of the most densely-textured tofu I'd ever eaten—tofu that, unlike the fresh blocks, had an even greater capacity to absorb the braising liquid.
The texture reminded me of the pressed tofu cakes, called "vegetarian chicken," of which the Chinese are so fond, yet no frying was necessary to achieve the same firmness. In short, I was quite pleased with my discovery. Some of the best "inventions," I thought to myself, come about by accident with a little ingenuity on the part of the cook.
It was only months later that I discovered the Japanese have been preparing tofu this way in a dish called ichiya-dofu, or "night-dried" tofu. The frozen and rehydrated tofu is simmered in a mixture of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and it can be served with a number of other ingredients, such as sautéed ground meat or vegetables.
The method is extremely simple and convenient if, like me, you always seem to have opened packages of tofu sitting in the fridge.
The process is as easy as it sounds: wrap the tofu in cheesecloth, freeze it overnight, boil it the next day in water, and simmer it to your liking, or add it as a component in other simmered dishes. I like to toss the chunks of tofu into the pot whenever I'm making an Asian-style braised dish with soy sauce, but the tofu would pair just as well with a vegetable broth.
Frozen tofu may not be the most eye-catching item on the menu, but it's surely one of the most economical uses of old tofu.
Adapted from Practical Japanese Cooking by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata.
1 block regular "cotton" tofu
2 cups stock: meat, dashi, or vegetable
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup sake or rice wine
1/4 cup mirin or 2 tablespoons sugar
Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish
The night before, wrap the block of tofu in cheesecloth and freeze for at least 6 hours, or up to 2 weeks. Frozen, the tofu will be yellow and leathery in appearance.
When you are ready to cook, run the block of tofu under hot water to remove the cheesecloth, which will have adhered to the surface of the tofu. Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop in tofu. Boil for 15 minutes, or until the entire block of tofu is softened.
Cut tofu into 1-inch squares and place into a saucepan along with the rest of the simmering ingredients (stock, soy sauce, sake, and mirin). Over medium-low heat, simmer for at least 25 minutes, or until tofu has fully absorbed all but 1 tablespoon of the liquid.
If you are braising cubes of meat in a soy sauce dish, toss the cubes of tofu into the pot during the last half hour of braising.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 3 to 4|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||6%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||4%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|