Unlike most American children, I grew up eating a lot of tofu. My Japanese mother cooked all my meals for me until the end of middle school, when I began learning to cook for myself. She usually made me traditional Japanese meals, which differ greatly from the typical American cuisine. For breakfast, I often had salmon, rice, and miso soup, sometimes with pickled cucumbers. Cereal was a rare treat reserved for vacation or sleepovers at a friend’s house. As for lunch, my mom would pack foods such as onigiri or tempura in Japanese bento boxes for me to take to school. After school, I always entered the house to find a home-cooked dinner being made, which my parents and I would eat sitting around the dining room table (never in front of the TV). Dinner was usually tsukemono (pickled vegetables) with some sort of Japanese dish such as okonomiyaki or yakisoba. White rice was a must at every meal, and tofu was served at least twice a day. Whether it was silken tofu with soy sauce or cubed tofu in miso soup, the soy-based protein was always a part of my daily diet.
Because I grew up eating so much tofu, my taste buds became completely adapted to the flavor of it. It actually surprised me to learn that many Americans think it’s gross. However, when I ordered tofu on my salad at a healthy restaurant chain, I quickly realized why. I was expecting some sort of marinated and cooked tofu for my salad, but instead I was served bland, unseasoned cubes of raw tofu. Yeah, not very appetizing. Tofu is definitely not a food that should be eaten straight out of the package. Like most types of meat, it tastes best when prepared properly. A simple marinade can do wonders for a block of tofu, since it absorbs flavors like a sponge. If you’re short on time, a little dip in some cornstarch and a quick pan-fry is the way to go. Basically, my point is that tofu can be absolutely delicious, as long as it’s cooked correctly!
An easy way to make tofu is to simply cook it in a pan with some flavorful sauces and oils. One of my favorite flavors to pair with tofu is sesame! A drizzle of sesame oil and some sesame seeds goes a long way in adding flavor, but requires very little effort. That’s why this sesame crusted tofu recipe is one of my favorite weeknight dinners! Any time I am required to cook dinner in a limited amount of time, I turn to this recipe. Although it is by no means a traditional Japanese dish, the flavors I used in this recipe were definitely influenced by my years of eating Asian cuisine. If you’re looking to switch it up from the typical pasta or soup for dinner, I encourage you to give this tofu a try!
Sesame Crusted Tofu and Broccoli
Take your tofu up a notch by adding a sesame crust around the outside! This asian-inspired meal makes for an easy and flavorful weeknight dinner.
- 1 block (1 lb) extra firm tofu
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp sesame oil plus more for drizzling
- 3 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1 large head broccoli cut into florets
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 cups cooked quinoa for serving
Slice tofu in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 4 squares. Place between two clean kitchen towels and place a weighted plate on top. Allow to drain for 5-10 minutes.
Spread the sesame seeds on a plate and press all sides of each tofu piece into the sesame seeds to coat.
Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-low heat.
Cook tofu pieces for approximately 5 minutes per side, until golden brown and crisp.
Pour in soy sauce and continue to cook for an additional minute, or until liquid has been absorbed, rotating tofu to cover all sides.
Remove tofu from pan and set aside.
Add broccoli, salt, pepper, and water to skillet. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Divide broccoli among 4 serving plates and top each with 2 pieces of tofu. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve alongside 1 cup cooked quinoa.
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