*This post is recycled from my old blog, Busy Mom’s Journal. About ten years ago, I watched the movie “Food, Inc.”, and promptly lost my taste for meat. I made J watch the most heartbreaking parts with me, he had the same reaction, and so for the last ten years, we have given up eating meat. It’s healthier, and we feel better not supporting the factory farm industry.
I am constantly searching for non meat-versions of protein, and other than beans and fish, we sometimes get in a rut. Eating tofu was a new experience for us, and to be honest, neither of us really like the texture. The only experience we have had actually enjoying Tofu was the vegetarian lettuce wraps at PF Changs. And to be honest, it’s hard to tell the difference between their tofu wraps and the chicken wraps. I found a recipe online for the PF Chang’s version, but both times I made them the tofu just tasted blah…and the texture wasn’t the same. Plus, after mixing together the marinade, the cooking sauce, and the dipping sauce, and chopping up the vegetables and tofu, my kitchen looked like an earthquake had hit.
So I have been experimenting with the recipe, and last night I made a much better, easier version of the above recipe. I think the key is preparing the tofu before stir-frying.
I start with a block of firm tofu, drain it, and put it on a stack of 5 or 6 paper towels. Then I top it with another few paper towels and put something heavy on top (a heavy pan, a plate with a teapot full of water, etc.) After about 20 minutes, I turn the tofu over, replace with a couple more paper towels (I know, bad for the environment), and repeat the process for another 10-15 minutes.
Then I thinly dice it, put it on a roasting pan sprayed with cooking spray, and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. THEN, I marinate it. When tofu is warm, it supposedly takes the marinade flavors better. When I put the recipe together about 30 minutes before dinner, the tofu got really nice and chewy and very flavorful.
Easy Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium) or tamari
- 2 Tbsp rice wine
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp ginger, diced
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1-2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 small can water chestnuts, diced
- 1 bag broccoli or cabbage slaw mixture
- 2 Tbsp canola, sesame or peanut oil
- 1/4 cup Iron Chef Honey Garlic stir fry and marinade sauce (or similar bottled sauce)
- Iceberg, Bibb or Butter lettuce leaves
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger
- 2 Tbsp chopped green onions
- Mix marinade ingredients together and cover prepared tofu for 1/2 hours, or longer.
- Heat oil in wok over medium heat. Add drained, marinated tofu and stir fry 15-20 minutes, stirring gently until browned. Reserve marinade to deglaze if needed.
- Remove from pan and add remaining ingredients to pan. Stir fry for 5 minutes or until veggies begin to soften.
- Mix together ingredients for dipping sauce as vegetables are sautéing.
- Add a bit of reserved marinade to deglaze if needed. Stir fry for a few more minutes as veggies continue to soften, then add stir fry sauce. Stir until veggies are done and sauce is warm.
- Add tofu and stir. Serve with lettuce leaves and dipping sauce.
- When you don’t feel like draining and pressing tofu, you can substitute soy crumbles. There are many different brands, but are usually found with tofu and other vegetarian-type products in the produce department. They have the consistency of ground beef and work very well in this recipe because they soak up the taste of the stir fry sauce.