Five ways to take your tofu scramble to the next level »
Is your tofu scramble missing something—flavor, pizazz, less slime? I’m no professional chef, but I did consult her for this article. And I’m sitting on the bench in my tofu scramble game: That means I DON’T PLAY. After complaining about tofu scrambles on restaurant menus, it’s only fair that I help others get on my level. Am I full of myself? You bet! Let’s start:
1. Tofu texture
You’ve got to go with firm or firmer, folks. Soft, medium, or silken tofu? Not gonna work here. I’ve made this mistake before, and it turns your meal all slimy. Go for firm or extra-firm. If your tofu is packed in water (usually accompanied by a hard plastic tray), you should also press it first to expel extra liquid.
2. Herbs ‘n’ spices
This is god-damned crucial. Because tofu is designed to soak up the flavors of what’s around it, you don’t want to end up with a dish that tastes like … tofu. Some important items, not just for cooking a tofu scramble but also for cooking most things in the world: garlic, cumin (gives it that eggy flavor), salt, black salt (makes it even eggier), pepper, paprika, turmeric (makes it yellow, if you’re into that) and thyme. Apply liberally, and thank me in the morning.
3. Cooking time
Cook your tofu in your skillet (ideally cast-iron, but who has time/money for such frivolities?!) till you think it might be burning. Then stir it, because it probably is not burnt. The point is you want your tofu to be done, not still mushy. Here’s my process: I sautee onions and any veggies with a longer cooking time first, then I add garlic and spices, and then the tofu. After adding the tofu, I cook on medium-high heat and stir occasionally for at least 15 to 20 minutes. You want that shit browned, ya heard?
You can’t just toss onions and peppers on top of cubed tofu and expect it to be any good. You want the tofu to soak up flavors, which is why I recommended in tip #3 to cook a lot of the relevant veggies first. Frozen spinach and potatoes are especially useful in this application. When something is frozen, I add it later, when I add the tofu to the pan.
This is the final step before serving, right? So don’t scrimp! Hook yourself up with some salsa, Frank’s hot sauce (GOD FRANK’S I WANT TO DRINK YOU), avocado, tortillas, ketchup, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and whatever else you godforsaken heathens like to throw on top of your food. Serve with toast, duh.
If your tofu scrambles are lackluster, try a few of these tips, and let me know how it goes. Or show it to a friend who could really use some help. Whatever, I’m here to serve!
[Photo by Cowomally via Flickr]
Squatters Pub Brewery: vegan surprise in SLC! »
I did some aeroplane-travel last week and had more than one layover in Salt Lake City, Utah, known mainly for Mormons and, I guess, the Great Salt Lake. So imagine my surprise when, during my famished, jet-lagged stagger through the Delta terminal, I stumbled upon Squatters Pub Brewery, an establishment featuring craft beers and oodles of vegan options! Never mind the beer, I would come here again just for the food!
On the way to my very exotic, secret destination, I ordered the Tofu Scrambler (comes with a bagel!). Although it came in a cardboard tray reminiscent of TV dinners, it tasted amazing, and not just because I was running on two hours of sleep. It featured tomatoes, parsley, and tasty salsa, and it wasn’t too moist or soupy, a common problem I find with restaurant tofu scrambles.
On my return trip, I went with the Fresh Veggie Wrap, which had the tofu scramble as a main ingredient. And again, it was amazing, just what the doctor ordered while recovering from a mad case of Montezuma’s revenge. I also ordered the Brewhouse Hummus with veggies AND chips (yeah, I got style), and that was yummy and healthy-feeling, although a tad heavy on the tahini.
Squatters’ (Ugh, I hate just typing the name, but it’s so worth it) menu has icons showing what can be made vegan and vegetarian as well as into what dishes you can substitute the tofu scramble. The proprietors should really look into vegan cupcakes, though.
So if you’re traveling by air and have to stop, try to make that stop in Salt Lake, and get your surprise vegan nom on!
“The best tofu scramble ever,” by Casey R. Are those soybeans in there? And kale? Uuuuugh I miss tofu so much you guys.
Mimosa Cafe! »
Mimosa Cafe is the tiniest little hole in the wall in Oakland right off Grand Avenue. It ain’t much to look at but you didn’t come for interior decorating suggestions, you came to EAT. And eat you will! Mimosa Cafe serves up one the absolute best tofu scrambles in all the SF bay area. And I know tofu scrambles. How is it that I know tofu scrambles? I LIVE TO EAT, I DO NOT EAT TO LIVE. Do we have an understanding?
They are absolutely amazingly delicious, filled with crumbled tofu, fragrant spices, and pretty much anything else you want added in. The home fries are vegan and ridiculously good! They also often have vegan muffins and VEGAN CROISSANTS! Ow! The surly/fabulous red-headed insanator of a waitress is not so much rude as she is hardened from years of running a meth lab, so cut her some slack. All is forgiven when you realize she is vegan and clearly 10,000 years old and still looking pretty fly, can I get a what-what for vegan longevity!? I’m gonna live to be a million years old and I’ll be dying my hair Ronald McDonald red and painting on my face every morning before I head to the farmers’ market. in SPACE. in my FLYING CAR. The future is going to be so amazing.
My only real issue with Mimosa is that once I found hair in my food and that just grossed me out. But it was just once and as I’ve learned from Chad Lowe’s seminal classic, NOBODY’S PERFECT, NOBODY’S PERFECT! Oh and the bathroom is really scary. Like horror film scary. I suggest you hold it or just go in your pants.
Bonus points, it’s located next to all vegan boutique, Micio Mambo, so you can buy all sorts of cute vegan shit after you stuff your face silly. If you catch a movie at the gorgeous and awesomely PISSED OFF Grand Lake Theater afterwards, I think you have three* of the twelve deadly sins covered in under three hours! Give me another hour and I’ll get through them all. In fact, I’m checking out your wife right now. While I’m FILLED WITH RAGE!!!
*Let’s give it up for Gluttony, Greed & Sloth!
Road Trip: Quiet Storm in Pittsburgh! »
As much as it’s possible for a person to appreciate her circumstances, I appreciate how good a vegan has it in San Francisco. All we’re missing, aside from the utopia of course, is a place to get a good tofu scramble. This city is utterly devoid of good tofu scrambles.
Strangely enough, the best tofu scrambles I’ve ever had were cooked in Davis, Calif. and Pittsburgh, Penn. OK, not so strangely to find good vegan food in Davis, but what is delicious vegan breakfast doing in Pittsburgh? Well! It is waiting for you to order it at the Quiet Storm.
They serve a daily breakfast that Joel is partial to, the Nothin’ Fancy, a good amount of tofu, potatoes and toast that is very good. They say their secret is to bake the scramble, but I believe that is a lie; the secret is also in the seasonings, because you could bake a thousand tofu scrambles from a thousand Bay Area restaurants, and none would taste as good as the one from Quiet Storm.
Even better, on weekends you can have a “country” breakfast burrito featuring this amazing tofu, plus the potatoes, little mushrooms and vegan sausage. The tortilla all this goodness is wrapped up in is made warm and crispy, and then topped with onion “jam.” Whatever onion jam is, who cares, just eat it, it is delicious.
I tell you, I have never eaten a better tofu-based breakfast outside of my own kitchen. OK, I’ve never eaten a better tofu-based breakfast, period, as I do not generally go to such trouble for one little breakfast. Besides, like I said, there are secrets to making this scramble that I haven’t cracked; replicating it would be impossible.
As for matters non-scrambled, their vegan cheesecake is very good, texturally perfect if a bit lacking in tartness. Do not, absolutely do not ask for “vegan cream cheese” to put on your toast, though; from what I could surmise, it’s cold whipped tofu, probably silken, and that’s it. Imagine taking a bite of that on your hot and toasty bagel. Are you shuddering? I shuddered. It was disgusting. This is entirely avoidable, of course, when you order your breakfast in a tortilla instead.
If you are ever in Pittsburgh, go eat at Quiet Storm. I have it on a native’s authority that they make good lunches and dinners, too, so there’s that. You should really go to breakfast, though, and Pittsburgh is supposed to be one of those big Sunday brunch cities, and Quiet Storm does that up right, too, so I’m told. Someday soon maybe one restaurant in our so-called vegan-friendly city will take a lesson from this little cafe across the country and make an edible tofu scramble, and I won’t have to keep pining for this one breakfast burrito I had this one time.
[all photos—and breakfasts!—courtesy Joel]
Unexpected vegan finds! »
A few places in town that are surprisingly vegan-friendly.
1. Pork Store—two locations: one in the Haight; one in the Mission. This is how much San Francisco wants you to be happy: it gives you a diner called the Pork Store and throws a really nice, garlicky tofu scramble on the menu, the “Vegan Delight.” From my numerous times sitting at the counter at the Haight location, I can tell you they use different pans for the tofu.
2. Q—One of only a few places on Clement Street to get non-Asian food, Q is an adorable restaurant: good for brunch, good for dinner, good for dates, good for anything. For brunch they have a tofu scramble, which they call “Hippy Heaven” and for dinner/lunch they have a grilled vegetable cornucopia called the “Ultimate Vegan Grill.” They also, quite notably, serve tater tots.They have an amazing wine list and serve sangria, so if you really don’t want to eat, you can always just get drunk. None of us will judge you (too much).
3. Casa Mexicana I (in the Castro) and II (in Noe Valley)—we love burritos at Vegansaurus! If you can’t take the greasiness of El Farolito or the long waits at Papalote, Casa Mexicana is a local taqueria chain (I’m certain they’re affiliated with some other taquerias in town, but have no evidence) with some tasty vegan options including lard-free beans, vegetarian rice and tofu ranchero; blocks of tofu covered in wonderful red sauce. Here’s what you do: you get a tofu ranchero burrito with refried beans, add avocado. You go to to the salsa bar, you add roasted tomato salsa and more cilantro. You love everything about life right at that moment.
[photo via yelp]