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For a fast, fresh, vegetarian meal, break out your wok and grab some colorful vegetables and a block of tofu. Although you can stir-fry in a large skillet, Grace Young, author of the cookbook, "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge," notes that the shape of the wok makes it easier to stir while also allowing the heat to reach up the sides of the pan. Create a complete dish by combining the stir-fried tofu with other ingredients, including aromatic ingredients such as garlic or chili peppers, vegetables and liquid seasonings like sauces or broth.
Remove the tofu from its package and drain the packing liquid. Cut the block into uniformly sized pieces.
Place the tofu on a towel on a baking sheet or a large plate. Let it drain naturally for 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, place another towel on top of the tofu and add a plate or baking sheet on top to press the tofu, which drains the liquid while giving a firmer texture.
Wash and drain any vegetables that you're using before cutting them into pieces that are roughly the same size to ensure even cooking. Although vegetables aren't required, adding at least 1 or 2 cups of vegetables for every 14 ounces of tofu adds extra flavor, texture and body to the dish. Try any combination of veggies that you enjoy, such as bok choy, mushrooms, snap peas, squash, corn or asparagus.
Set the veggies aside and mix liquid seasoning ingredients in a separate small or medium bowl. Seasonings can include any combination of liquids such as rice wine, chili paste or soy sauce. While it isn't necessary, you can add a sprinkle of cornstarch to the mix to create a thicker sauce.
Dice or mince 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of aromatics such as ginger, garlic or chili peppers for every 14 ounce block of tofu, depending on your palate. Other options include herbs, pickled vegetables, scallions or lemongrass. Chopping them finely encourages maximum flavor distribution.
Place the wok over high heat. You’ll know that the wok is hot enough to start cooking when you place a drop of water into it and the water evaporates within 2 seconds.
Swirl roughly 1 tablespoon of neutral-flavored oil such as vegetable or peanut oil into the work. Move the wok around so the oil coats the side of the pan.
Add the tofu, working in small batches if necessary. Let the tofu cook for about 30 seconds to sear the outside before stirring it.
Continue cooking, stirring frequently for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the tofu is lightly browned on all sides. Remove the tofu from the wok and transfer it to a plate.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok. Add your aromatic ingredients, stirring the mixture for about 10 seconds before adding your prepared vegetables.
Stir-fry the vegetables for 1 minute and add your liquid seasoning. Stir the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the veggies are crisp-tender.
Put the tofu back in the wok, stirring it into the rest of the mixture until it's coated.
- Serious Eats: Wok Skills 101: Stir-Frying Basics
- The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking; Martha Rose Shulman
- Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own and Cook It at Home; Andrea Nguyen
- The New York Times: Getting the Most From Your Wok
- Start cooking the rice or noodles that you plan to serve your stir-fried tofu over while prepping the ingredients so that everything is ready around the same time. In the same manner, prepare all your ingredients and gather all the tools, bowls and utensils that you'll need before you start cooking.
- Although you can use as many different vegetables in any combination you like, limiting your choices to one or two vegetables makes it easier to avoid over- or under-cooking.
- Stir-frying is a high-heat cooking method. Avoid splattering hot oil on your skin to prevent burns. Additionally, open your windows and use an exhaust fan to help clear the smoke that results from cooking at high temperatures.
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