The title of this post is maybe a little unfair. The real culprit—the thing that draws my excessive yet unabashed ire—is turmeric in tofu scramble. I hate it much more than is reasonable considering its only real offense is being dusty, flavorless, and yellow. I mean, I understand it’s purpose–let’s convince everybody else we have something equivalent by making it look equivalent-ish. But still, I’m the one eating here, and I taste things with my mouth, not my eyeballs. Going to restaurants that have picked up on this trend (and not other trends, like flavor) means they are still giving me bland-ass food. I don’t want a salad and I don’t want stupid boring tofu.
That’s why I’m so happy to share this recipe with you. It is genuinely special. It’s one of the finest tofu scrambles in the world, doesn’t involve turmeric, and was found at a non-vegan restaurant. It is simple, savory, and delicious–everything a breakfast protein should be–with a shockingly short list of ingredients.
104 St. near Jasper is on one of my favorite places in Edmonton, Alberta. There’s a big ol’ wine store, fancy grocery, sustainable home goods place, tiny wine bar, and weekly farmers market (with actual vegetables instead of just crafts). The Blue Plate Diner is also on this street, and–last time I was there–it offered some of the best vegan options in town. The most notable of these was their tofu scramble.
When I describe it to you, you’ll understand why it was easy to replicate. What you won’t understand is why it’s so good. That’s why I have to beg you to try this recipe for yourself. It might just change your life.
This tofu scramble is different because, unlike others, it relies neither on covering the soy-y flavor of tofu, nor on yellowing it. Instead, it replaces the soy flavors at a molecular level.
How?!??! is what you are likely asking yourself right now. The answer is a process you’ve probably heard of: brining.
The quick and dirty on brining is that it infuses moist things with the salt and flavors of the liquid you soak them in via a process called diffusion. When you have free floating molecules in an area and their movement isn’t restricted, they will spread throughout the area until they’re evenly dispersed. Since plant cells have semi-permeable membranes, when you put them in a bowl of salt water, the salt water (which can get through the membrane) diffuses into the cells and the soy-y water pocketed throughout the tofu (the stuff you try to press out) diffuses out into the bowl. Since this recipe involves some veggies, those diffuse their tasty molecules into the brine and take on some salt, as well. The overall effect is that you get tofu that is lightly salty and savory, without the overwhelming soy aftertaste.
If you want to read more about the science of brining, and don’t mind occasionally seeing reference to animals being brined, I recommend this page.
Minimalist Tofu Scramble
Time: ~45 minutes, mostly idle
1 block firm tofu
2 c very warm water (or enough to cover)
1 medium tomato, diced
3 green onions, sliced (green and white parts)
~1 tsp dried basil
salt n’ peppa (½ tsp salt per cup of water)
1-2 tbsp margarine (not oil)
Steps to prep:
1) Press your tofu, at least a bit. You can skip this step if you plan to leave your tofu brining for a long time, but this will help get the majority of the soy-y water out.
2) Cut up the veggies and put them in a medium to medium-large container with warm water, salt, basil, and a few grinds of pepper. Swish things around to get the salt dissolving. This is your brine.
3) Once it’s pressed, crumble the tofu into the smallest possible pieces. This is important. No chunks. You can use this as an opportunity to squeeze more liquid out by crushing the tofu in your powerful grip over the sink. Add crumbled tofu to bowl of brine and veggies.
4) Let the tofu brine for at least 30 minutes. I am not kidding–it has to be at least that long. Make yourself a cup of coffee. Do some dishes. Relax. Diffusion takes time.
5) Melt the margarine in a frying pan and add tofu and veggies, but not liquid (or at least as little as you can manage without pressing the tofu dry). Slotted spoons are great here.
6) Aim for medium/medium-low heat. Cook the scramble covered initially, then uncovered near the end to cook off some (but not all) of the liquid. Cook until the tomatoes are soft. If you get low on liquid before the tomatoes are done, add water not brine. The brine now contains a bunch of soy-y tofu water.
Serve with margarined toast. And, if you really want to, I guess you can add some crappy turmeric. It probably can’t ruin it.