Sunday, February 15, 2004

Tofu French Fries

(Originally posted on Sunday, February 15, 2004 by Tim)

I was hoping to have a tofu french fries recipe for you today. Cat and I went out to Zao Noodle for Valentines Day (Thanks Mom and Dad). A franchise just went up in Seattle. When Cat and I were dating, we used to go out to the one in Palo Alto. It was there that we learned of the marvel called wasabi peas "A Happy Present from the Earth". These can be purchased en masse at most asian grocery stores. We get strange looks from the cashier when we walk up to the check out counter with 2 bunches of baby bok choy, a pound of tofu, and 20 bags of wasabi peas. I've tried pointing to the text on the bags and exclaiming, "A Happy Present from the Earth!", but this seems to frighten cashiers for some reason. Perhaps a bad childhood experience with legumes?

What does all this have to do with tofu french fries? Well, when Cat and I went to Zao Noodle, they had Tofu French Fries on the menu. I had never seen them before and had to try them. It was a tough decision to pass on the "Happy Present from the Earth", but we do have 15 bags in the pantry at home. The tofu french fries were served in a martini glass with vinegar, peanut, and chili dipping sauces. The were grey in color and about twice the width and height of regular french fries. It was a very interesting appetizer with one main drawback, tofu doesn't taste like much of anything on it's own. Zao Noodle hadn't done anything to spice up the tofu fries. They provided the sauces as the source of flavor. It seemed to me that the fries could be much improved by a marinade. I was on a mission.

We stopped off at the grocery store on the way home for dinner and picked up a couple pounds of tofu for experiments. When we got home, I assembled the marinade we use for Kung Pao Tofu (haven't written that one up yet) and cut one pound of tofu into slabs. I marinaded the slabs overnight and woke up the next morning raring to go. Cat came downstairs to find me filling the deep fryer with oil at 10 am. After some negotiations, she convinced me that I should wait until dinner to try out the fries (I wasn't planning on eating them for breakfast, I just wanted to make them).

We spent a good portion of our day trying to find an acceptable place to stash a geocache we have put together. One of the rules for placing a cache is that you do not want to be within 0.1 miles of another cache. Before yesterday, I thought we had alot of parks in our area. Now I think we have too few. We spent about four hours looking for a spot 0.1 miles from another cache which was not too traveled and not close to railroad tracks. We found one that works just before sunset and then raced home to try out the tofu fries.

I'm afraid that the end is going to be a bit anti-climactic. I pressed the marinaded tofu between a bowl and a strainer to remove excess water and then dropped it into hot oil. My result was very different from Zao Noodle's in that I managed to blacken the tofu fries on the outside while leaving a soft white middle. Zao's fries were coooked almost all the way through. My fries were tasty, but not superior to baking tofu with this marinade. My thought is that I need to remove more water from the tofu before deep frying. I'm not quite sure how to do this yet, but I will keep thinking about it.

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