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Tofu to beat the heat

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Tan Hsueh Yun on 18 Jun 2017

The Straits Times

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Baked marinated tau kwa will not work up a sweat and goes well with salad, a grain bowl or sauteed vegetables

 

If my colleagues and I are right, you should be reading this while a thunderstorm is raging outside your window.

 

We go through this every year. The weather gets unbearably hot. We think of story ideas to help you, dear reader, deal with the heat.

 

This week, we are showcasing hacks for hot days. Try the one for cooling down the inside of a car that's been parked in the sun for hours. It works.

 

But we at Life know that the minute a story like that is commissioned, it will rain. Just like some of you believe that every time you wash your car, the skies weep soon after.

 

After this weekend, however, all bets are off. We are not planning any more hot weather stories, so it is quite safe to say that we are entering the time of year when scorching weather will drive us crazy.

 

On days like that, I just want to sit in air-conditioning, a cool drink by my side and not do very much.

 

Alas, I get hungry.

 

The solution is to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, but to make that time count, by cooking flavourful, fuss-free food that lift the spirits and thrill the tastebuds. Over the next few weeks, I'll give you some ideas.

 

Let's start with a recipe for very versatile and useful baked tofu.

 

Baked tofu? I know, many of you don't find joy in soy.

 

But try this recipe anyway. It might change your perception of beancurd. If it helps, tofu is packed with protein.

 

Now I must confess that I love soya in all its forms: sauce, curd in every texture, dried sheets, whole beans. I especially love deep-fried cubes of tofu when there is a killer dipping sauce involved, but even when it's cool, I hate messing around with boiling oil.

 

Instead, I press the water out of blocks of tau kwa or extra firm tofu, marinate the pieces and bake them in the oven. Without much work, I have the foundation for all sorts of delicious things.

 

I serve the baked tofu with baby spinach, julienned carrots, sliced purple cabbage and sweet grape tomatoes for a crunchy, healthy meal.

 

The tofu can also top a grain bowl. Quinoa cooked with chicken stock and tossed with lemon zest and chopped fresh herbs at the bottom, plus grilled zucchini and bell peppers, and the tofu on top will make a hearty lunch to take to work.

 

Or saute bok choy with shimeji mushrooms and serve with the tofu. Add soba noodles to make dinner more filling.

 

The marinade I use - kicap manis, Sriracha chilli sauce, sesame oil and light soya sauce - is just a suggestion. I love the mild heat from the sauce and the light sweetness from the kicap, but the possibilities are endless.

 

Miso and honey thinned out with some shoyu will make a good marinade, as will ginger juice, soya sauce and lime juice. If it is too hot to make a marinade, use your favourite barbecue sauce. I am forever buying Japanese sauces, which take up room in my pantry. This is a great way to use them all up.

 

If feeling austere, bake the tofu right after pressing, with no marinade. The pieces crisp up and are a pale golden brown. Then, dip in Sriracha or Kewpie mayonnaise.

 

I usually make a double batch and store the extras in a covered container in the fridge to snack on when I am feeling peckish.

 

Strange but true: The tofu tastes better cold.

 

Which is excellent when it's too darned hot.

 
BAKED TAU KWA

 

INGREDIENTS

 

  • 2 pieces tau kwa, 400g
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs kicap manis
  • 2 Tbs chilli sauce (such as Sriracha) or hot sauce (such as Cholula)
  • 11/2 tsp light soya sauce
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds

 

METHOD

 

1. The night before cooking, rinse the tau kwa under running water, pat dry with paper towels. Place on a plate and top it with another plate or cutting board. Place canned food or a container filled with water on top of the cutting board and let the tau kwa sit for 45 minutes to an hour (above). The idea is to remove as much water as possible from the tau kwa.

 

2. Dry the tau kwa with paper towels. Slice each piece into quarters, then cut each quarter into four pieces, for a total of 16 pieces for each tau kwa.

 

3. Mix the sesame oil, kicap manis, chilli sauce or hot sauce and light soya sauce in a bowl. Toss a few pieces of tau kwa at a time in the marinade and transfer into a resealable plastic bag. When all the tau kwa is in the bag, scrape whatever marinade is left into the bag, press out the air and seal. Refrigerate overnight.

 

4. Thirty minutes before cooking, remove the tau kwa from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Place the tau kwa on the tray in one layer.

 

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and, using a pair of tongs, flip the pieces of tau kwa over. Return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes.

 

6. While the tau kwa is cooking, toast the sesame seeds.

 

7. Remove the tau kwa from the oven, let cool five minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with a salad or in a grain bowl.

 

Serves two to four

 

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