the secret of great tofu: green beans & tofu in a thai coconut sauce

I have finally discovered the secret to really great tofu. I mean, I have no qualms with tofu. I love it and have gotten well past that old teenage habit of flinching when my mom would hide tofu in lasagna. But this weekend, I figured out how to make tofu awesome and it involves just 2 simple steps.

One, press the tofu. I know, I’ve seen recipes that say, “press tofu”, but have casually ignored that step. I thought I it was just something recipes said that I could easily bypass, which I did for years and years. A few times I have frozen tofu and then crumbled it which gives it a different texture but I didn’t think that pressing that white block of soy could have such wonderful effects. Boy, was I wrong! And the pressing was easy too….it just required a little forethought. I wrapped the tofu in a clean kitchen towel, set it on a plate and then put my heavy cast iron fry pan over top. I also put my half-full kettle on top of the pan for extra heavy pressing. Worked like a charm. When I cut up the tofu into cubes and then gave it a quick marinade in soy sauce, sesame oil, red chilis, garlic and ginger, all of that liquid got quickly sucked into the tofu. Mmmm, can you say, instant flavour?

The second step for great tofu is tossing the flavour-soaked cubes with cornstarch before frying. This magical step achieves the hard-to-come-by dream of crisp, golden tofu. Just add a bit of oil to a cast iron pan or wok and, whoop, there it is. For years and years, I have just always sauteed my tofu without coating it…trying to let it’s own glory shine. Didn’t work the way I wanted it to, but throwing the tofu into a bag with a few spoonfuls of cornstarch? Magic, I tell ya!

So what did I do with this golden, dreamy tofu? I set it aside and put some green beans that I had picked up at the market earlier that day to good use. I roasted them quickly with similar flavours that I had marinated the tofu. Meanwhile, I stir fried some red peppers and then when the beans were nice and caramelized and just starting to wrinkle, I popped that into the pan too. Next, I mixed up some spices, a couple of spoonfuls of chili-garlic sauce and half a can of light coconut milk and threw that in as well with a bit of freshly squeezed lime juice near the end. Mix in the tofu and stir to coat, serve on top of brown Jasmine rice and dinner is served.

The thing about this recipe, is that I’ve gathered it in 3 parts, so if you want to make just the tofu, go ahead and skip the rest. Take that golden fried tofu and sprinkle it with kosher salt and cayenne pepper and man, you’ve got something good. Same with the green beans. Get them roasted and wrinkly and spicy and they’ll make a lovely side dish. Or go whole hog (it doesn’t take much time-wise) and mix everything up into one tasty dish.

48 comments to “the secret of great tofu: green beans & tofu in a thai coconut sauce”

  1. 1
    VeggieGirl   June 24, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Mmm, that Thai-coconut sauce sounds divine!!

  2. 2
    hannah m   June 24, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Thank you, thank you for the tofu tips! I love eating tofu, but can never cook it quite to my liking. Can’t wait to make this.

  3. 3
    Katerina   June 24, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I was just reading about this whole “pressing” thing. I must try it, good to know it actually makes a difference!

  4. 4
    Rachel   June 24, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    This looks lovely!

  5. 5
    Bijoux   June 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I’m back to the world of the living after a week with…wouldn’t you guess it – pneumonia! The good thing is I lost a bit of the pudge…LOL! The bad thing is I haven’t regained my appetite yet. I’m hoping that this phase will pass quickly.

    Tofu is one of my favourites and I eat it every week. I have tried the pressing method and found it helpful but a bit problematic, especially when one day, the water pitcher full of water that I had used as a weight, fell over and all the water spilled onto the kitchen floor. I should try a better weight method!

    That being said, I find that the tofu does indeed absorb more flavour when pressed! I also like the cornstarch coating of the tofu but hubbie doesn’t, as it adds more unnecessary carbs to the food and he has to watch his blood sugar.

    Thanks for another great tofu recipe. I will be making this dish very soon!

    p.s. your spicy mushroom tofu recipe kicks butt too! I have made it a dozen times and it never fails to please the palate! πŸ˜€

  6. 6
    Maija   June 24, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Great tips. I started doing the pressing thing a while ago – it really makes a big difference in getting it crispy. Often, I am making a recipe using a can of something (like coconut milk), so I use that as my weight. I didn’t know about the cornstarch tip, so I will try that next time!

  7. 7
    cookinpanda   June 24, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    This is such a great post. I remember when I too finally succumbed to the tofu pressing phenomenon. I had resisted primarily out of laziness, though I’m sure partly of stubbornness too. Isn’t it great though? It just holds up so much better.

    Oh, and the cornstarch trick works wonderfully in so many ways. I had to laugh when I read this because friends of mine try my recipes that call for the cornstarch step, usually skip it (for the same reasons I didn’t press tofu for so long…)…

  8. 8
    hag   June 24, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    That lokks so good! I have gotten away from tofu these past few years ( I used to eat it all the time when I living with a vegan) …but I do remember having the best results when I took the time to press the tofu first!
    Thanks for the delicious reminder… i can’t wait to try your recipe.

  9. 9
    Lydia   June 24, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Wow, wow, wow. It looks amazing and the tofu tips sound divine. Lucky I have some in the fridge.

  10. 10
    Fall Garlic   June 24, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Well I just removed all the ads from my blog thanks to you. After finding the little no ads logo and going to the website I had to give my head a shake. We don’t have cable and one of the reasons is to try and keep the advertisers at bay. Then I am putting ads on my blog. Thanks for the wake up call. Also had to mention lovely content on your blog. Good of you to champion tofu. Have you had any offers of falafel from scratch recipes. I am sure people would be interested. Thanks again.

  11. 11
    lobstersquad   June 24, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    kickpleat, I love you anΒ΄all, but “great tofu” sounds to me like an oximoron. The sauce looks great, though. Might try with chicken…

  12. 12
    Judy   June 25, 2008 at 4:31 am

    This sounds like a delicious way to prepare tofu. I am always looking for new ways but I am picky and most fall short, so I’ll give this one a go soon.

  13. 13
    Shakespere   June 25, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Hi. I enjoyed your blog. It is very interesting.The food looks fantastic!

  14. 14
    Kali   June 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I’ve always wanted a fairly failproof fried tofu stir fry recipe. Thanks, lady! I think even my meat-lovin’ man can get on board with this.

  15. 15
    bellcurves   June 25, 2008 at 11:35 am

    omg, what a beautiful creation! and thank you for sharing the tips–i love tofu for its versatility and healthiness. and, i’ve eaten it for most of my life, but never knew those little secrets. i bet it’ll make all the difference. i’m a huge fan of thai food, so this thai coconut sauce sounds like my kind of sauce.

  16. 16
    Mari   June 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    I seriously need to do better in my tofu consumption, thanks for the golden tips!

    Btw…I have an award for you, so if you care to stop by, I’d be honored.

  17. 17
    Sorina   June 25, 2008 at 9:06 am

    It look’s to good to be through I am definitely going to try this

  18. 18
    Jay Andrew Allen   June 26, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Looks great – can’t wait to try it myself.

    As for the corn starch – that works fine. My favorite approach is one I garnered from VEGANOMICON: use a solution of 1/2 c soy milk and 2 tbsp corn starch, mix until corn starch dissolves. Dip the tofu cubes in that, then coat with either white flour or corn meal. Fry in oil, then add to main dish.

    Works like a champ. I’ve had people who “hate” tofu rave about it when prepared like that.

  19. 19
    Luisa   June 26, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I’ve always wondered about how restaurants got their tofu to act so differently than mine at home! Can’t wait to try the pressing technique.

  20. 20
    kathrine   June 26, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Hey! You made it into The Stranger here in Seattle! Just thought I would let you know!

  21. 21
    kickpleat   June 26, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    thanks veggiegirl, it is!

    i hope this works for you, hannah m

    yeah, hag, i think pressing is the key to tofu nirvana πŸ™‚

    it does, katerina!!

    thanks lydia & rachel πŸ™‚

    bijoux, glad you loved that spicy mushroom dish and i hope you’ll love this one just as much!

    maija, the pressing thing really works! amazing!

    cookinpanda, thanks. i never knew the trick about the cornstarch before. who knew? besides you!

    wow, fall garlic, glad to know that that little space made a difference! i hate ads on blogs for that very reason. go you!!

    lobstersquad, i can’t convert the unconverted…sigh. but i have to argue that great tofu exists! for reals!

    enjoy kali!

    judy, i hope this one won’t fall short for you.

    thanks shakespere & sorina!

    bellcurves, i didn’t know them either until now. i’m enriched with tofu knowledge!

    thanks for the generous award! too cool? so not!

    jay andrew allen, thanks for stopping by! and i love the idea of making a batter for the tofu. yum.

    luisa, give it a go! it works πŸ™‚

    wow, thanks for the heads up, katrine!

  22. 22
    Lisa (Show Me Vegan)   June 26, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I’m looking forward to trying this out. I’m still learning my way around tofu, and do know that there is a lot of potential there from eating some amazing examples, that I haven’t quite re-created yet at home!

  23. 23
    Kalyn   June 27, 2008 at 6:29 am

    This sounds wonderful. I’m pretty new to cooking tofu so I like hearing your tips!

  24. 24
    Simran   June 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Hey! I made beans and tofu too πŸ™‚

  25. 25
    Sophie   June 27, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Your blog features a delicious array of recipes; the way you’ve chosen to present your recipe collection is admirable. We’d like to pass along a gift to you; it’s an acclaimed service that any cook with a recipe collection would feel honored to use. Please email [email protected] if interested.

  26. 26
    [eatingclub] vancouver || js   June 28, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    LOL. Now I know.

    I have always wondered why other people have always complained how awful tofu is. I’ve always had it and never had any problems with it in any dish.

    We usually have firm, firm tofu, though, that is, tofu with less moisture (hence, pressed). Soft tofu is used only in some dishes. Different tofu for different purposes, but still all good in my book.

  27. 27
    elizabeth   June 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you!!! Thanks in part to THIS wonderful post , and part to a recent lesson from my friend Mike, I succeeded in cooking tofu for the first time ever last night! Delicious AND looked good. What a wonderful post.

  28. 28
    kickpleat   June 28, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    lisa, tofu is full of potential! good luck πŸ™‚

    kayln, i can’t believe you are new to cooking tofu!

    thanks sophie!

    simran, beans & tofu are da bomb.

    eating club, i buy the extra firm tofu and still press it! i’m not so much a fan of the super-soft tofu.

    hooray elizabeth! glad you were able to make great tofu πŸ™‚

  29. 29
    Wendy   June 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you!!!!!
    A thousand times, thank you! I have now made edible tofu for the first time in my life. And not for lack of trying, either.
    This was soooooo good πŸ™‚

  30. 30
    Amelia   June 28, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Tried this tonight and it was the shizz! Thanks again kickpleat!

  31. 31
    Punga   June 29, 2008 at 9:21 am

    This looks so good. You know what’s also a really good form of tofu that I guarantee you will love? Dessert tofu – it’s soft, silky, and great drizzled with maple syrup or honey. There’s a great store in Chinatown where we get our dessert tofu in huge 4 L buckets!

  32. 32
    Cakespy   June 29, 2008 at 11:02 am

    The thai-coconut sauce does indeed sound fantastic, but what kills me here is the mouthwatering perfection and plumpness of those green beans. They are just begging to be crunched between my teeth!

  33. 33
    Pentathalos   June 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    That looks good, I’ve gotta start cooking more.

  34. 34
    tania   June 30, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    brilliant! thanks for the tofu tips- i could never get it to taste nice- can’t wait to try this!

  35. 35
    Sarena Shasteen   July 1, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I have never tried adding cornstarch to my tofu either and I have to say…you have now tempted me! I have a block of tofu in the fridge right now that I have been trying to figure out what to do with it. I think you just made up my mind for me!

  36. 36
    kickpleat   July 2, 2008 at 11:33 am

    amelia & wendy, so glad you loved this! hooray!

    punga, i’m totally not a dessert tofu person. i like my tofu firm, not soft. i’ve tried almond soft tofu and it wasn’t for me.

    cakespy, i don’t know how crisp those green beans were since they were roasted beforehand! i do like crisp green beans best but these were tasty too!

    pentathalos, start cooking πŸ™‚

    tania, let me know if you become tofu-successful!

    sarena, give it a go!

  37. 37
    eatme_delicious   July 4, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Yuuuuuuuum this looks so good! I used to press tofu but didn’t really notice a difference. But now that you’ve clearly spelled it out (about how tofu can soak up more flavour if it’s pressed), I’m going to have to go back and try that method again.

  38. 38
    beth   July 13, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Wow! So many comments.
    We’ve taken to eating a lot more tofu, now that I’ve learned to crust it with something crunchy (like panko, or potato flakes). Even my anti-tofu boyfriend likes it. Two of my tricks are, indeed to marinate it well (although I haven’t tried pressing it yet) and coat it in cornstarch – before I dip it in eggs, and then oiled panko and bake it in the oven til crunchy.
    I’ll have to try pressing it next time.

  39. 39
    Abs   September 4, 2008 at 8:03 am

    I made this last night. It’s the first time I’ve ever managed to make plain tofu taste good, and whoa, it was delicious. It was give-me-another-bit-of-that tofu, not just this-is-OK-considering-it’s-tofu tofu. Even my omni boyfriend enjoyed it – he said “Mmm, it’s really meaty!” Which maybe isn’t the ideal comment but it’s still positive. Holy monkey, though, it was hot. I had to swap out some ingredients and I think I kind of overdid the spice. Anyway, thanks for curing me of my tofu blindness, I’ll experiment with it more in future.

  40. 40
    kntgrl   September 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    OMG!!!! am SO going to try this!

  41. 41
    Anne711   October 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    This was so good. I had read about pressing tofu before, but your post finally gave me the confidence to try it.

  42. 42
    Megan Sutherland   October 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Really wonderful recipe. Tasted fantastic. In all my vegetarian years I have never shaken my tofu in cornstarch in a bag! Great to learn a new technique πŸ™‚

  43. 43
    sammy g   February 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Lord have mercy! This was soooo good. It just takes some time and planning and it’s definitely ‘slow’ food. It’s the first time I can actually say I loved tofu. We determined to eat more dishes geared to vegetables in 2012. Don’t know if it’s an authentic Thai recipe or not………but it surely could pass for one. Thanks so much for posting it.

Leave a comment