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?
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.