If you are using tofu for the first time, you may not realise that it is usually sold in a container of water, which prevents it from drying out. It is important to drain off this water before cooking, or you will end up with a wet and sloppy mass.
Tofu is like a sponge, absorbing the liquid in which it is stored, so pressing it before cooking is also worthwhile. In order to do this, wrap a cloth around a block of tofu and place it on a chopping board. Place a heavy plate or tray on the tofu allowing it to squeeze out the remaining water. You can press gently down in the plate but be careful not to squash the tofu.
Unless you have bought pre-cut tofu, how you slice it will largely depend on how you want to use the ingredient. In general firm tofu is easier to slice, while the softer varieties are good for crumbling and puréeing.
When going on to marinate tofu, dicing it is often good, as you get more flavour per bite than large slices. This is particularly good when adding to a stir-fry or salad, for example. If you are looking to include tofu in a sandwich then thin slices are the best.
Most people find tofu a bit bland an uninteresting unless it is marinated. As it is like a sponge in texture, tofu soaks up the flavour of the ingredients surrounding in. Leaving the tofu in an airtight container with the marinade for at least half an hour, but preferably longer, will help it absorb the flavour fully.
Popular marinades include soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chilli, lemon, lime or any assortment of fresh herbs and spices. Most people avoid using oil based marinades. This is because no matter how much you press tofu it will always contain water. As water and oil do not mix, the oil will form a skin over the tofu, preventing other flavours from being absorbed.
Traditionally tofu is used in savoury dish, most commonly stir fries, and also salads, pizzas and soups. Tofu can be fried, grilled, toasted, sautéed or baked. It is ready when the tofu is crunchy on the outside, but still soft and silky on the inside.
Many people enjoy coating tofu in breadcrumbs, cornstarch or flour before cooking to add a little extra crunch. Tofu cubes can be added into soup. If you are looking to purify tofu into your soup for an extra creamy texture then silken tofu is usually the best option. It is the smoothest and easiest to blend.
Tofu has recently gained popularity in dessert recipes. As it has little flavour of its own it equally well adapts to sweet dishes as it does savoury dishes. Due to its texture, flans, soufflés and cheesecakes seem and obvious option for tofu, but it is also being used in ice-cream, smoothies, cakes, cookies and pies. Do not fear experimenting with tofu – you never know what delicious treat you may stumble across. In many dessert recipes, it is soft or silken tofu that is called for again, for its creamier texture.