Trader Joe’s ORGANIC TOFU (& RECIPE)


I can tell by the stats that a good number of visitors to the site are interested in posts about Tofu.

Therefore I’ve been wanting to write up a post reviewing this tofu that I always buy at Trader Joe’s most anytime I go there, along with a simple basic recipe on how to prepare an easy tofu dish. Interest in tofu is well deserved of course, as tofu is an excellent, high-quality protein that is plant-based and is inexpensive. So what’s not to like?

Even if you, like yours truly, are not vegetarian, tofu is a good thing that you should be eating for so many reasons. Tofu is healthy, good for you, good for the planet, and is versatile and easy to use in many ways. If tofu is not already on your typical “mains” or  “proteins” list when you go shopping I would suggest tofu be added to your list. How about Meatless Mondays? Thats a good start! In our house we usually make a Japanese “tofu steak” type recipe once a week or so.

“Trader Joe San’s ORGANIC TOFU” in the pink & white package is a good tofu. Not too soft nor too firm, it takes well to being cooked up as described here. Not for most of us Americans tofu pretty much seems to have “no taste” on its own. However what tofu does quite well is absorb flavors. What flavors should you think about? Obvious ones are all Asian flavorings: Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, cilantro…. You can not go wrong with these flavors cooking tofu. What about texture? I like cooking my tofu till its “golden brown” and develops an outside surface texture with a slight bite to the tooth, which it can get if cooked in certain ways. So one of the ideal ways for me to make it is to grill it until golden brown to improve the texture and then serve it with some kind of sauce.

Here’s a very basic and easy recipe to make grilled or sautéed tofu.

1. Take the tofu out of the package, pour off all the water, and set it over a colander or strainer to drain as much water as possible. Let it sit for about an hour. I sometimes put a few plates for a little weight and pressure.

2. Cut the tofu carefully. First into slices about 1/2 inch thick, then if you want smaller pieces, cut those into half. Heat up a non-stick or cast iron pan till it is good and hot with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil and add the tofu slices (a little sesame oil added now is great for extra flavor). Let it cook for about 10 minutes at medium heat until the tofu looks golden brown when you check it. Flip the slices over and cook the other side till also golden brown. In the picture below I’ve sprinkled on some fresh ground black pepper too.

3. When the tofu slices are browned, now is when you either go one or two ways with sauce or flavoring. One way is to add the sauce (ingredients) to the pan and cook in the sauce till they are absorbed mostly. The other way is to remove the golden brown slices of tofu to a serving plate, then make your sauce and pour it over the tofu and around it. Both ways are good and I would suggest trying both methods and see which you prefer (the pouring over keeps the crispy texture of course a bit more). I like both ways and make it both ways depending on my mood.

How to Make a Basic Sauce: Sauté freshly grated ginger and chopped garlic for a few seconds till fragrant in some veg or sesame oil, then add your liquids: 2-3 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce (Trader Joe’s sells this).  Maybe some veg or chicken stock too. A teaspoon of Sesame Oil (TJ). Optional: Mushrooms, Oyster Sauce, Sriracha, Fish Sauce, chopped scallions, pinch of sugar or honey, and Cilantro if you like it. If its very liquid you can add a little cornstarch/water slurry to thicken up the sauce.

Lazy options: If you prefer to just buy a sauce for your tofu steak: Try TJ’s SOYAKI or TJ Ginger Soy salad dressing. Sriracha and Soy. Anything flavorful that might go well with it.

A package of this tofu feeds 2 or 3 with other things (rice, sides) and costs around $2. Cheap!

Marinating also is a good technique for flavor. Here’s a good sounding recipe for Baked Tofu.

Easy Baked Tofu with Sesame and Soy Sauce

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC BAKED TOFU


RAVE

How about this for a review? Though I am not vegetarian, I buy this all the time. This is a terrific tofu product for anyone. It seems to be one of the more popular products Trader Joe’s sells. I often notice shoppers grabbing 2 or 3 packages, and throwing them in their cart. Sometimes its even sold out. Clearly there is a reason TJ’s BAKED TOFU is this popular. ORGANIC BAKED TOFU is an excellent, tasty, very versatile and healthy food. Its high in protein and an excellent “meat substitute” that one can use this in many ways, for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

BAKED TOFU as the name implies is tofu that’s been backed after being marinated. Baking tofu removes most of the water in it and gives it a very pleasant, firm, and well nicely satisfying “meaty” texture, which is why its great for non-vegetarians as well as vegetarians or vegans. Again, I’m not vegetarian but I buy this all the time because its so good. This can make a very good substitute for a meat protein like say, chicken? In fact this can be used as a “main” protein in many dishes. This is terrific for use in an Asian Stir Fry. It can be eaten on its own as the Main. You can eat this just As-Is, cold or room temp, with a nice sauce or dressing such as their Sweet Chili Sauce or Sriracha Ranch Dressing, or Spicy Peanut Dressing…. or make up your own. As you can see from what I did with it, it can still be cooked (see pic below). I sometimes grill it, which I think improves it’s flavor even more. There are two flavors available, TERIYAKI and SRIRACHA. Though I am a big fan of Sriracha sauce I find the Teriyaki version is my preferred of the two versions they have. So if you are trying this for the first time, I suggest trying the Teriyaki version first, then the other. But honestly both flavors are good, do try both at some point and see which of the two you like best. Perhaps you will always buy one of each kind, as I see many people do!

What I did with it here (pictured below) is just cut it into slices and sautéed it in a non-stick pan with some Toasted Sesame Oil for about 5 minutes a side until it was golden brown. I then added Soy Sauce and a little raw Sugar (the two basic elements of Teriyaki sauce) and a good deal of fresh black pepper and cooked that for a few minutes more until the sauce has cooked in and thickened a bit. Basically I wanted some more Teriyaki flavor and some sauce. Fresh Garlic (and fresh ginger) would be great to add too, of course for even more flavor.

If I had added more soy sauce and sugar and cooked it down, that would have made more Teriyaki sauce. I think thats one good way to make it. This can be served with that sauce on the side or spooned over. You can use almost any sauce, prepared ones at Trader Joe’s such as Teriyaki, Dumpling Sauce, SoyYaki, Sriracha, Green Dragon Sauce, or even Sriracha Ranch Dressing. Serve the tofu along with some rice, a vegetable, and salad and you have a great tasty, healthy, fast, easy dinner.

If that’s too much work for you, you can just open the package up and just slice it into cubes and throw it on top of a bed of arugula, Power Greens, spinach leaves, etc., and drizzle your favorite sauce or dressing on top, maybe add some peanuts or cashews and voila – you have a nice Lunch or Dinner in seconds.

Roughly I would say one 7 oz. package serves about 2 people, if you serve with above other stuff. So get another package if you are 4.

Some readers report just slicing it up thinly and using in sandwiches, as one might use sliced chicken. As the package says “be creative”.  This would be good with the SOBA STIR FRY KIT. You could also use this, or the Sriracha version, as your “main protein” plus veggies with TJ’s very good  THAI CURRY SIMMER SAUCE for a Thai curry. 

In short I find this is great stuff to always keep on hand in the fridge, and I almost always have a package in mine, as it’s already cooked it has a long BEST BY date (about 5-6 weeks) so its not like a meat product.

Some more uses: cut into strips, sprinkled with more seasonings (chili powder and garlic powder), stir fried, then added to lots of veggies in an asian stir fry.

A 7 oz. package has gone up in price now to $3.69 (current price, May 2019, NYC)

RAVE

NYT no-recipe recipe idea. Soba/Tofu and Kimchi
Here’s what to do: Get some firm tofu; some soba noodles; some jarred kimchi. Make a sauce of minced garlic and ginger, some soy, hoisin or oyster sauces, a splash of raw sugar, honey or maple syrup, another of toasted sesame oil, a some red-pepper flakes, all whisked together. Boil water for the soba. Cut the tofu into manageable pieces, and pat dry with paper towel. Heat a good quantity of neutral oil, like canola, in a big sauté pan, then add the tofu in a single layer and fry it over medium-high heat, turning to get every side. Meanwhile, cook the soba. Remove the crisp tofu and toss with the sauce. Serve in a bowl, the hot soba arranged to one side of the tofu and the kimchi to the other, along with the sauce. Oh, man. You could put some roasted asparagus on top. A soft-boiled egg. It’s so delicious.

TJ’s High Protein Organic Super Firm Tofu


 

Let me begin with saying Trader Joe’s Firm Organic Tofu is very good. I always buy that. That’s the one that comes packaged in a red/pink plastic container and is in water. This product, HIGH PROTEIN SUPER FIRM TOFU is quite different. For one thing (unusual for tofu) it does not come floating in water, it’s packaged in a tight fitting green plastic wrapper. I saw this and thought I’d give it a try for the blog here. So here’s the shortest review I’ve ever given “I didn’t like it” (but don’t take just my opinion, other’s here have written in to say they like it a lot)

 

 

Super firm? They are not kidding when they say “super firm tofu”. I say more like super- duper firm. If I drew a picture in my mind what “Shoe Leather made of Tofu” might be like…then you will have some idea of the texture of this. Have you ever cut firm Tofu? Sure, your knife glides right through it, so easily. Well this stuff, your knife has to be pushed with a little pressure to cut through it. Kind of the texture of a soft tofu rock. To me, the package should read “HARD & TOUGH TOFU”. I guess thats the “High Protein”?

Its sounds kinda good when you look at it and think “Oh High Protein, that must be better” but the reality is this extra protein must be the thing that makes the texture so hard. 

When I cooked it for dinner, we found the finished dish so tough and chewy to be barely edible. We barely choked it down chewing our cud so to speak and only ate this due to the fact that we were starving at the time and had nothing else at hand to eat for dinner. Man did my (Japanese) wife take it out on me for buying this. As she said, “I come from tofu country”. She made me swear to “Never, ever buy that stuff again”. 

Having said all that from our take on this, some readers have Commented they like it because it is so very firm. Go figure. To each his own, right? 

Here’s TJ’s own take on Super Firm Tofu, via Fearless Flyer archived post. 

For me, I will stick to TJ’s ORGANIC FIRM TOFU (in the red pack) which I love and have reviewed with a RAVE

 

RANT

 

 

NYT no-recipe recipe idea. Soba/Tofu and Kimchi

Get some firm tofu; some soba noodles; some jarred kimchi. Make a sauce of minced garlic and ginger, some soy, hoisin or oyster sauces, a splash of maple syrup, another of sesame oil, a lot of red-pepper flakes, all whisked together. Boil water for the soba. Cut the tofu into manageable pieces, and pat dry with paper towel. Heat a good quantity of neutral oil, like canola, in a big sauté pan, then add the tofu in a single layer and fry it over medium-high heat, turning to get every side. Meanwhile, cook the soba. Remove the crisp tofu and toss with the sauce. Serve in a bowl, the hot soba arranged to one side of the tofu and the kimchi to the other, along with the sauce. Oh, man. You could put some roasted asparagus on top. A soft-boiled egg. It’s so delicious.