Stir-Fried Tofu with Scallions

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 20 minutes

The most basic stir-fry you can make and one you can build on indefinitely. Master this and you master the world, at least the world of stir-frying tofu, which is not insignificant.

11/2 to 2 pounds firm to extra-firm tofu, prepared by any of the methods in The Basics of Tofu or simply blotted dry

3 tablespoons peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger (optional)

2 dried chiles (optional)

1 or 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, white and green parts separated (about 2 cups total)

1/3 cup vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (see The Nut and Seed Lexicon; optional)

Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch or slightly larger cubes. Put the oil in a large skillet or wok, preferably nonstick, over high heat. When hot, add the garlic and the ginger and chiles if you’re using them and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add the tofu and the white parts of the scallions; cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu begins to brown, a couple of minutes. Add the stock and cook, stirring, until about half of it evaporates; add the green parts of the scallions and stir for about 30 seconds.

Add the soy sauce, stir, taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish if you like, and serve.

Variations

Stir-Fried Tofu with Scallions and Walnuts. You can use cashews, peanuts, or other nuts here if you like: In Step 1, before cooking the tofu, use an additional tablespoon of oil to stir-fry 1 cup of shelled nuts (they may be whole or broken) until glossy and just beginning to brown, about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, then proceed with the recipe.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Scallions and Black Beans. Black beans are a simple but huge flavor-booster for any stir-fry: Before cooking, soak 2 tablespoons fermented black beans in 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine, sherry, or water for about 10 minutes. In Step 1, reduce the stock to 1/4 cup and add the black bean mixture along with the green parts of the scallions. Proceed with the recipe.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Scallions, Orange Zest, and Chiles. An old favorite, not often made at home; use an exhaust fan or the chile smoke may get to you: In Step 1, before cooking the tofu, use an additional tablespoon of oil to stir-fry the peeled zest of a navel orange (you want the zest in large pieces, not shreds) and 3 to 50 dried red chiles (traditionally a handful, but you can use less), until glossy and just beginning to brown, about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, then proceed with the recipe. Do not eat the chiles; they’ll just lend a pleasant heat and smokiness to the dish.

7 Additions to Stir-Fried Tofu with Scallions

You can build on this recipe by moving on to Stir-Fried Tofu with Bell Peppers or Other Vegetables, which follows, but here are some other, slightly quicker ideas:

  1. 1/2 cup (or to taste) Crunchy Crumbled Tempeh, along with the tofu
  2. 2 teaspoons five-spice powder, or to taste (to make your own, see Five-Spice Powder) and/or a few star anise, added with the tofu (this is good with hoisin sauce, see number 6 below)
  3. 1 medium to large tomato, cored, halved, and seeded, then chopped, added with the white parts of the scallions
  4. 1 cup bean sprouts, along with (or instead of) the scallion greens
  5. 1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste), honey, or other sweetener, along with the green parts of the scal-lions
  6. 1 tablespoon (or to taste) Chile Paste or hoisin sauce, along with the soy sauce
  7. 1 tablespoon (or to taste) dark sesame oil, along with the garnish