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Top 12 easy Chinese Recipes

Marinaded, pan-seared tofu with kale and cheese-topped breadMarinades easily, simply, & brilliantly get tofu to “pop” with flavor. If you get the marinade going ahead of time, they’re also fast.

Squeeze or drain the tofu very well beforehand, slice it (see below), put in a watertight lunch container with the marinade ingredients, and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or more (1 hour is better), shaking or turning upside-down every 15-30 min (you can even open the container up and rearrange things to help ensure maximum absorption).

To pan-sear: Cut tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and marinade. Once marinaded, arrange, sans oil, in your favorite super-nonstick, tofu-friendly pan and sear each side until firm and crunchy (should be the color of medium to well-done toast, but not burnt).

To bake: Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut tofu into 1/2 slices, then slice crosswise into strips 1/4 to 3/8 inches wide and 2 to 3 inches long. Prick on both sides with a fork, marinade, then place in a nonstick or lightly-oiled baking sheet, reserving any unabsorbed marinade if serving tofu on its own. Cover sheet with parchment paper or foil and bake 30-45+ minutes (depending on how dry you want it), turning ever 15 min or so. If serving tofu on its own, after baking, add back the reserved liquid and test seasoning to add more sauce or herbs as necessary.

The Recipes:

Bonus Tips:

  • Timing: I like to put together the marinade before going out on a run or hike; after I’ve cleaned up, the tofu is ready to cook for an easy dinner, along with rice (or pasta) and a salad.
  • Tofu: I like Trader Joe’s firm tofu because it’s in 2 containers for easy halving and is more amicable to getting the juice REALLY pressed out of it. For Azumaya tofu I cut out the top label along the inner edge of the tofu container, then use the plastic to press the tofu down while I squeeze from the sides. Instead of squeezing, the tofu-wary &/or faint of heart can just slice the tofu and put it between two plates, bottom plate tilted to drain, with some books on top (takes longer, though).
  • Meat Eaters: Most of these are equally superb with tofu or chicken, but if you’re going with real meat, cut the soy sauce down by half, add another tablespoon of oil, and marinade overnight or up to 3 days, depending on how juicy and tender you want the results to be. For longer-marinaded items slated for the barbecue, be careful not to cook at too high a heat, or the juicy middles will stay undercooked while the outsides burn. Easy solution: halve breasts lengthwise-flatwise before marinading. Obviously, always discard marinade used for meat; never use it for anything afterward. If you need additional marinade, make a separate batch that won’t touch the raw stuff.


Core Marinade

For a basic marinade I aim for 1/2 cup to 3/4 whole cup total marinade (depending on how much I want to have left for other things). About 2/3 of it is usually a mix of olive oil and vinegar; I usually add 2 Tbsp soy sauce and 2 cloves of garlic, and top up with something like lemon juice and a few teaspoons of spices.

Basic Baked Tofu

Super versatile, super easy.

  • 1 cake firm tofu (about 16 oz)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use peanut oil if I’m going for an Asian flavor)
  • 1 Tbsp dark/toasted sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp peeled, grated ginger root (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed (or crushed and minced)

Spicy Tofu: add 2-3 Tbsp Chinese chili paste and reduce soy sauce to 2 Tbsp.
Sweet & Sour Tofu: Add 2 Tbsp vinegar, 1 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup, sugar, or blue agave syrup)
Chioptle Tofu: Use instead 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp chopped chipotles in adobo sauce, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional).
Barbecue Tofu: Use instead 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and 3/4 cup barbecue sauce (great with sauteed onions on mashed potatoes!)
Southern-Style Tofu: Instead coat tofu with a mix of 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning.

Lemon Herb Tofu

Fantastic lemony flavor, and the salty edge of the soy sauce somehow bakes out. Excellent on pasta or salad.
This one can be baked uncovered.

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried herbs such as rosemary, dill, or oregano (I use 1 1/2 tsp rosemary, plus 1/2 tsp oregano)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

Emily’s Magical Baked Tofu

The best baked tofu on the face of the planet. Basically, anything is good with this tofu in it.
For this one, toss the tofu with the final herbs only after the tofu is all baked.

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2-4 Tbsp cilantro, basil, or parsley (I’ve used basil once and cilantro a few times – excellent both times)

Spicy Asian Tofu

Sweet and sharp, this tofu has a great Asian “kick” to it; great with udon noodles and stir-fried veggies.

  • 1 lb extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup mirin (sweet asian rice wine)
  • 3 Tbsp tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp Asian Chile sauce
  • 1-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Easy “Italian” Tofu

Classic — great flavor that (surprise!) lends itself well to both light and heavier pasta dishes.

  • 1/2 c white cooking wine
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Bsp Bragg liquid aminos or tamari (a richer, wheat-free, fermented, unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • A big pinch of each: dried basil, marjoram, thyme

Extra: Tangerine Tofu

Haven’t tried this one yet; it’s supposed to be fantastic baked.

  • 1lb extra-firm tofu
  • 1 heaping tsp tangerine/orange/tangelo/clementine zest
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar (or real maple syrup)
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum

Credit where it’s due: most of these come from The Veganomicon or from Moosewood Restaurant’s “Simple Suppers” cookbook.

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