Today I will share with you a dish we prepared using tofu as the main source of protein. And in an effort to add a bit of flavor, I smoked the tofu on my pellet smoker.
But before I get into the dish itself, I thought it would be interesting to cover the basics on the history of tofu, since I am fascinated with culinary history.
For those of you not well-versed in tofu, it’s a source of protein used in many countries. It’s basically soy beans ground into soy milk, which is coagulated to form curds, then pressed into tofu cakes. The tofu cakes can vary in flavor, though here in the United States the bland tofu cake seems to be most preferred. The textures range from “unpressed fresh” to “soft” to “firm” and finally, “extra firm.”
Most food historians trace tofu back over 2,000 years ago to the Han dynasty of China. Here in the U.S., its first mention (it was spelled t-o-w-f-u) was in a letter from an English shipping merchant by the name of James Flint to Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is the first person recorded here in the United States to actually try it, though at that time we were still a colony of England.
Tofu made its way through all of Asia following the spread of Buddhism, which promotes a vegetarian diet to its followers. It is low in calories and high in protein. It contains fair amounts of calcium and sodium as well. If you would be interested in reviewing a ton of information on tofu, check out the tofu section on Wikipedia. It’s actually quite interesting.
For this dish I bought extra-firm tofu and cut it in half lengthwise. I then placed the tofu on a cooling rack, placed a bundle of paper towels on the top and then laid a cast iron skillet on top of the paper towel. I allowed it to sit like that for three hours or so. The reason for doing this is to squeeze some water out of it. I then cut those pieces into strips and bite-sized pieces.
I rolled the pieces in my pork rub and put them in my pellet smoker at 225 degrees for one hour. I then brushed each piece with barbecue sauce and turned the heat up to 300 degrees for 30 minutes or so. This is to firm up the sauce.
We served the tofu in a bowl of rice with shaved carrots, sauteed yellow bell peppers and edamame. We topped it with a sauce made up of barbecue sauce and soy sauce that was heated up.
Lastly, we added some snippets of the green portion of scallions, sesame seed and some chilled kimchi, which is spicy and fermented cabbage and Korean in origin. If we did this dish again I would probably try some tofu that is not as firm. I would also toss the tofu pieces in a light coating of oil to maintain moistness before smoking.
It was a fun dish that Liz and I both enjoyed, but yes, we are both looking forward to a big, fat steak.