Tag Archives: tofu

Fried tofu sub sandwich: $1.19 each

Inspired by the General Tso’s fried tofu sub featured on both Serious Eats and in The New York Times, this is a sandwich for meat lovers. I’ve been cooking tofu a long time, and this method of applying a dry-rub to water-expelled tofu (the latter being one of my tweaks), dredging in a slurry of egg white and cornstarch, and covering in panko before frying is something I had never thought of doing, and it completely transformed the tofu into something abjectly un-tofu-like. Super-crunchy on the outside, sweet, soft and flavorful on the inside, it tastes like an illicit state-fair treat or exotic Asian bar snack, not the humble, flavorless tofu you know. Nestled in a sub sandwich with spicy sriracha mayo, lettuce, roasted onions, and lime juice, it’s almost transcendent. I feel compelled to provide fair warning that this is a project—I made both the sub rolls and the mayo from scratch—but it’s completely worth it. (It should also be noted the original sub, from No. 7 Sub in Manhattan, costs $9.)

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Chinese black beans and tofu: $1.96/serving

This almost-vegan (provided there are real oysters in your oyster sauce) weeknight dish is surely poised to become a favorite in the $35-a-week rotation. Not only would it be super-cheap with on-sale tofu and from-scratch beans (neither of which I had this time around, unfortunately), but the flavors echo those in Chinese black bean sauce, which I love, but with the added bulk and fiber of whole beans. Crispy fried tofu cubes add textural interest and even more protein. It would also, for you non-budgeting-folks, make a great side dish for duck or chicken, with or without the tofu.

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Tofu mole tacos: 42 cents each

Now, I’m not always one to toot my own horn, but I hereby announce that this is the best tofu dish I’ve ever made—or even tasted. I’m not anti-tofu by any means, but even I admit it can be an impenetrable, waterlogged block of blah, resistant to all but the most drastic attempts at flavor or textural improvements. This dish changes all of that. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to even tell this is tofu—it has a firm, almost meat-like texture and really soaks up the rich, chocolatey mole flavor. (This does call for pre-made mole sauce. Back in October I made a super-fantastic version from scratch and still had a bag of it kicking around the freezer, which is how I conceived of this dish to begin with. You can certainly use store-bought, but be forewarned I can’t vouch for it in taste or price.)

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Hot-and-sour cabbage noodle soup: 80 cents/serving

I’d like to say I made this soup to mark the end of National Soup Month (it’s also National Bath Safety Month, National Tubers and Dried Fruit Month, and National Thyroid Awareness Month, for those keeping track), but the truth is I had fresh bun noodles left over from bun bo hue, half a head of napa cabbage left over from the best-ever potstickers, and a whopping 0% motivation after spending most of yesterday reading “Adventures Among Ants” (a very good book, by the way) in a crowded jury room. I did not get chosen for a jury—or even called up for voir dire, for that matter—but I did have to spend many hours sandwiched between people who either smelled bad or didn’t know how to use their inside voice. A good, hearty soup was about all I had in me by 5 pm.

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Weeknight Thai curry: 71 cents/serving


As I’m sure is apparent, I’m not a big advocate for prepackaged processed foods. This includes everything from canned beans to pre-ground spice mixes and sauces. But there is something I’m willing to make an exception for: the little 89-cent tins of curry paste you can find in Asian markets. Have you ever tried to buy curry paste at the supermarket? Because I have, and it’s not pretty: $4.25 or more for teeny tiny jar containing a white-person approximation of the real thing, which is so watered down you have to use almost the entire jar for one meal. These little tins may not be available in your area, but they’re easily found online (at Amazon.com they’re $1.25 or so, and if you spend $25 you get free shipping). They might not be 89 cents, but they’re still cheaper than $4.25. Plus, not only do you get more paste, it’s stronger stuff, so you only have to use a tablespoon or two. Once you open a can you can put the contents into a plastic bag, freeze it, and carve chunks off of it whenever you need some. Usually I can get about 3-4 meals out of a single can, bringing the average cost per meal to about 26 cents. This, believe it or not, is cheaper than making it yourself. I know, because I’ve done it, and not only was the homemade stuff more expensive, it had weird textural issues from the coriander seeds and lemongrass that no amount of blending or processing seemed to be able to fix.

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Glass-noodle pad Thai: $1.22/serving

Oh, look! Another super-simple Asian noodle dish of dubious authenticity! Sort of pad Thai, sort of pad woo sen, and totally doable on a weekday night when you’re trying to get some work done and the recycling needs to be sorted and your dog really has to go to the bathroom but that creepy guy from across the street keeps walking up and down the sidewalk for seemingly no reason and oh my god, how is it 8 pm already?

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