If you weren't raised with chopsticks, don't panic. While tofu is decidedly an acquired taste, it is easily prepared. Just follow the simple steps given to me by a Korean friend:
- Tofu, I prefer extra firm.
- A can of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth (your choice).
- Fish sauce
- brown sugar
- red pepper
*Free-range chicken broth can be found at any health food store. Chinese pepper is best when purchased in oriental markets. Fish sauce is rather common unless you live where I do, in which case, drive to an oriental market.
First: Brown the tofu and freshly pressed garlic in oil; I use extra virgin olive oil for health reasons. Cut the tofu in small squares; you want them thick enough to stay together but not so thick that added flavors are not absorbed.
*I don't specify how much garlic or how much tofu to use because it is entirely up to you. Tofu is a very individualized food. Oh! Buy a garlic press at the store and use fresh garlic instead of the crap sold in powder form. Even the supposedly fresh, chopped garlic in the grocer's fridge is not worth buying. Believe me, it is worth the small effort to add fresh garlic to any dish.
Second: Add a half can or so of broth and allow the tofu to simmer. Put in the amount of hot spice that you can tolerate. Fish sauce, if you like the flavor, is added at this point. You can use from one to as many tablespoons as you find tasteful. Again, just sample the concoction as you go along to determine what your taste buds find pleasurable.
Third: Add brown sugar and cornstarch mixed beforehand with a little of the leftover broth. Do you like things sweet? If so, add more sugar. If you prefer less sugar, use less. The cornstarch is a bit trickier. Too much can screw up the sauce. I would suggest beginning with two tablespoons. You can always add more. Remember to mix the cornstarch with broth before you add it to the simmering tofu. The object is to dissolve the cornstarch, so you don't need much broth.
Finally: Scallions should be finely chopped; I use two or three. They are added during the last two minutes of simmering. Don't stir after the scallions are added. Just lower the heat, simmer briefly, and serve immediately.
The entire process takes me less than twenty minutes. If you want to add mushrooms, broccoli, or anything else, do it towards the end. You don't want overcooked veggies. Enjoy!
P.S. Serve over rice. May I suggest a rice cooker if you eat a lot of rice. They aren't expensive and they are essentially foolproof.