Why do they HAVE to fry my tofu?

When I lived in Seattle, in many restaurants that offered tofu as a “meat” option (like a Thai place where you can get a dish with your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu), it was totally normal to ask for either “fried tofu” or “steamed tofu”. This was especially super-normal in any dish where the meat or tofu would be added to a wok full of other ingredients – in which case, asking for “steamed tofu” just meant that they added raw tofu on the top of the pile and let it “steam” in the steam created by cooking vegetables. It’s get stir-fried a little in the process, but was mostly steamed. I’ve watched this in action in a place where the kitchen was open to the dining area. Fried tofu is actually fried in oil separately first, I believe, though I never saw that done, because I DON’T LIKE FRIED TOFU. It tastes like overcooked scrambled eggs to me. I do like non-fried tofu. A lot. My favorite choice, usually, in that kind of dish. I do eat meat, I’m not a vegematarium, I just like tofu.

Now, living the last few years in non-urban New England, it seems I can’t get un-fried tofu at all. The Thai place nearest my house actually told me last year that they could maybe give me some if I called in the morning before they’d fried up their tofu for the day. WTF? How does this work? They keep only one package of tofu in the restaurant at any time, and it must all be fried at once? :confused:

Lest you think they’re balking because they don’t think they have proper tofu-steaming equipment or something, I’ve tried asking for both “steamed tofu” and “tofu that’s not fried”. Nope, can’t do it.

Why? For the love of all that’s holy, why?!

Typed up while grumpily eating my late lunch of Vegetable Tofu Pad Thai and picking out the nasty-fried lumps of yuck to set to the side.

If they’re not use to doing it and you’re the only person asking for it then your boat has a very small financial paddle in relation to the flow of their customer base.

You’d almost have to talk the owner into trying it with you to show that it is a yummy alternative worth adding to the menu and altering the kitchen workload.

But the thing is, it’s so easy! Literally all you have to do, if you already have tofu in the fridge, is cut it up and dump it in with all the other stuff!

I’m not a vegematarium either, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I don’t eat much tofu for this very reason. If I wanted overcooked egg I would have ordered that. When I ask of something with tofu I expect smooth silky tofu with whatever sauce is in the dish. Like a chicken replacement.

I am glad to know it’s not just me. I was starting to suspect that what I used to think was tofu (the silky cubes - or steamed tofu as you say) was something else. Let me know if asking for “steamed” works for you, I might try tofu again.

Tofu does come in different types, and some are silkier than others, but I know for a fact that the kind they commonly used in Seattle – “extra firm” is what it’s usually sold as – works for both frying and steaming. Or dumping-in-with-all-the-other-stuff.

I actually add it myself sometimes if I order takeout to take home, especially in soups. It just needs to be warmed through, and even that only so you don’t have cold chunks of something in your otherwise warm dish. It doesn’t have to be cooked for safety or anything before you eat it. Like cheese.

Because most people (we omnivores) don’t like steamed non-fried tofu. It’s truly disgusting and I have tried on many occasions to like it. Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew. It like slimes around your mouth and is SO NASTY. But it doesn’t taste like anything–it’s like a greasy lump of non-nutritive slime. When you fry it, it at least picks up the flavor in the oil, and it gets a substantive texture to it that is much more appealing to people who don’t typically eat tofu on a regular basis.

I’ve had fried tofu in pad thai and it wasn’t half-bad. The tofu that comes in miso soup is FUCKING AWFUL.

So they’re just pandering to customers’ tastes most likely. Steamed tofu has a very disagreeable texture to tofu-virgins.

rachelellogram, are you suggesting that New England restaurants do not wish to offend unfried-tofu-haters like yourself by even allowing me to specially request it? To pander to your tastes by denying me mine? Coz I’m not asking anyone to *stop *frying the damn stuff for haters like yourself. I don’t think the chef will forget how it’s done in the time it takes to skip the frying just once for me.

And I promise not to make you eat any of my disagreeable-to-you/tasty-to-me tofu. I wouldn’t make anyone else in the restaurant eat it, either. I would even consent to sit with my back to the room if it would make you feel better about the delicious slime rapidly disappearing into my gaping maw.

I’ve got a recipe for a hot and sour soup that involves soft tofu. You don’t even notice it when you eat the soup. It soaks up the yummy ingredients in the broth.
If it was on its own, I wouldn’t even eat it because I do agree with the slime factor, but in the soup, it’s nice.

Have you ever tried Hot Pot? You can slip the tofu into the hot broth and again, you won’t notice it if you eat veggies and meats or shrimp along with it.

I almost never have to eat fried tofu (yuck!), and we certainly never fry it ourselves. I’m actually surprised that you can’t find it. We’ll, non-urban New England? Yeah, I think I see your problem.

I’d dump in my own.

Please don’t talk for this group of omnivores: me, my husband, two kids, sisters, nephews, their kids etc etc. I way prefer silken, non fried tofu, ESPECIALLY in miso soup.

OP, We live in New England too, but we can get “steamed” tofu if we want it. I’m sorry you can’t get it where you are.

it comes pre-fried. you could try asking for silken tofu next time, but if they don’t stock it, they don’t stock it. restaurants don’t fry the silken stuff to get the fried stuff.

tofu grades are kind of like… cuts of meat. it’s not just one amorphous blob of tofu in the back. tofu comes in grades, and that stuff is determined at the factory. by the time it gets to the restaurant, it’s already dried, fried, or silken.

also, silken tofu doesn’t go into stir fry traditionally. asking for it in a dish that uses fried tofu is like asking for (for lack of a better food analogy) babyback ribs with your eggs at denny’s. you might like it, but it’s just not the dish. if the restaurant had babyback ribs (silken tofu) and eggs (stir fry) then maybe they could be obliged to make it for you… but more likely than not you’ll probably not be satisfied.

HOWEVER
they could steam it for you, i guess. fried tofu is not always fried. it’s sometimes tossed in soups and stuff and i don’t see why it can’t be steamed, to make it less chewy. if you raise a fuss about it next time, for them to steam your fried tofu… they’ll probably do it. however, keep it mind it will still be yellow, cubed, and chewy. not white and mushy.

In college in Washington State once, I ordered Chinese takeout, and I requested that the tofu not be fried, for exactly your reasons. The dude taking the order got really pissed off at me: it sounded so disgusting to him.

But I agree: steamed tofu has a lovely, custardy texture to it, and fried texture is something totally different.

It’s probably easier to do it all at once than a piece or two here or there. And if they have clean oil in the mornings, you know for sure there’s not meat contamination from them frying chicken and such. I realize that’s not an issue for you, but it may well be for people who actually are vegetarian or vegan.

I order general tso’s tofu, and am the only one in my town - and I can only get it on weekends because my tiny small town chinese take out place will make anything to order within reason and availability.

Tofu has a very short shelflife and is not bought in those sterile bricks, it comes in a tub of water. They get a tub in friday, and it is gone by monday.

Your tiny place does a similar thing, they prep ingredients in the morning so you can have nearly instant dinner on tap. The veggies are chopped, the tofu and probably pork nuggets and chicken nuggets are all deep fried in the morning so they just grab a portion out of the reach-in and turf it into the wok. Would it kill you to actually let them know the day before that you would like it steamed?

Or you could do what I do when I want tofu in mid week, I bring a brick of my own tofu, and they throw in some extras like crab rangoon and egg drop soup…

I can’t tell if you’re serious. On the off-chance that you are, if I know a day in advance what I’m having for dinner, that’s because I’m cooking it my own damn self.

I’ve got a few friends who are die-hard silken-tofu fans (I like it in miso, but I can’t manage to get behind tofu (fried or steamed) in any other form, sadly) and as a group, we’ve come up with a few strategies that tend to work.

  1. Find a Thai or Japanese restaurant that caters heavily to actual Thai or Japanese people. They will most likely have the largest on-site selection of tofu, and therefore will be able to sub out different kinds to patron tastes.

  2. Find a restaurant that caters heavily to vegans or vegetarians. In our own totally nonscientific sampling, the more a person dislikes meat, the more they dislike the mouthfeel of fried tofu. That might hold true for your area as well.

  3. As hokey as it sounds, like aruvqan does, just bring your own little silken tofu brick along, and ask them to chunk it into whatever broth/steaming stuff they’re doing. One of our friends did this at a place that had exquisite curry, but only with fried tofu. (She wasn’t vegetarian, she just prefers silken tofu in a lot of dishes) They didn’t have it, and she had some at home, so she brought it in. The server laughed, but who cares?

aruvqan, yes it would kill me to order a day ahead. OK, I’m exaggerating, it wouldn’t kill me; it would just make me hungry. None of the places near me are good enough to bother ordering a day ahead – I order from them when I suddenly discover I forgot to bring my lunch to work, or I’m too low-blood-sugary to make my own at home, or something, and I need it NOW NOW NOW. If I had the leisure to order a day ahead, I’d just drive an hour to Boston or Portland or Manchester and get something really good instead. Like Eritrean food. Damn. Now I think I might have to drive up and get Eritrean lentils and injera tomorrow. This is ALL YOUR FAULT, you know.

And I’m sorry, but these are places that are open and serving fried tofu dishes 6 days a week. It may be non-urban New England, but they get plenty of business. If they have enough tofu to serve it every day, and they do, they could open tomorrow’s brick or watery tub today, cut off a lil’ bit, not fry it, and let me have it. It doesn’t go bad overnight! I used to buy it from those tubs myself when I lived in Seattle and also later in Ithaca NY (another tofu-happy neo-hippie town) so I know. It easily keeps for two or three weeks if you change the water every few day, and at least a week even if you don’t.

pancakes3, I do not believe they are using the pre-fried kind – which I believe is a specialty item – since they tell me they have to fry it themselves every day; nor do I expect silken tofu for steaming. I would be happy with soft, firm, extra-firm, marinated, pressed, or pre-formed into leering cross-eyed smiley faces (not sure that last type is available here, though). And I don’t totally buy the “like asking for babyback ribs with eggs” argument (which would otherwise make sense, I’ll give you that) if it’s standard on the West coast.

CrazyCatLady, you are just making excuses for these tofu-slackers now. BTW, that one place near me told me last year I could call early in the day to request it – but this year I called once at 11 AM when they start answering the phones for the day, and that time they told me they just couldn’t do it at all. Hrmph!

Well you asked for an explanation of why the restaurant wouldn’t honor your request and I gave one. Don’t get mad at me! Silken (I guess that’s what it’s called) tofu is one of the VERY FEW foods that I cannot eat. It’s a texture thing.

I also said “most omnivores,” so if you’re the exception that doesn’t prove anything. All the omnivores I know HATE tofu, but my sister who likes it is vegetarian.

You understand that the question was “why won’t a restaurant prepare food this way”, and your answer was essentially, “I don’t like it that way, and I don’t know anyone who does.”?

It would be like my asking why my local car dealer won’t order me a red car, and you chime in with “I hate red cars and nobody I know drives one. That’s why.” Only with more capital letters and cursing.

Hint: It’s not about you. Or your friends.

Nope- you said “most people (we omnivores)”, indicating that all the omnivores (under the heading of ‘most people’). Check your post.