It’s impossible to avoid jokes about tofu when living as a vegetarian/vegan in this country. The word is even used pejoratively, implying falseness or weakness. Why all the hostility? Tofu is soft, mild, and white. What could be more unoffensive?
Like other mild foods (rice, white bread, chicken), tofu needs a little attention to be delicious. What it needs most is salt–under-salted tofu is probably the primary reason that people don’t like it. Tamari is a natural pair, but a little table salt and garlic or herbs is wonderful too.
The other thing it benefits from is proper treatment in the pan. Of course, there are many ways of cooking tofu, but for standard dishes this is the way to go:
First, you have to identify the kind of tofu you’re working with. I’m not even going to discuss the stuff that comes in the aseptic package in the grocery isle. The refrigerated stuff comes in two primary forms–in a tub with water or in a brick wrapped in plastic. The tub tofu can be anything from silken (not appropriate for frying) to extra firm. The wrapped tofu is usually either firm or extra firm.
Softer tofu benefits from a thorough draining, and even pressing between some towels (paper or cloth). Firm tofu is ok right out of the pack. Heat a non-stick skillet (or well-seasoned cast iron pan or wok) over medium-high heat. Add at least a tablespoon of oil and your tofu chunks, slices, or whatever, and SALT. Even if you’re adding soy sauce later. The salt helps draw the moisture out of the tofu. Get everything settled in place and turn your stove to HIGH HEAT. The highest you’ve got. Before long (longer if you have softer tofu, be patient), a nice brown crust will start forming. You can fry each side, but I usually just flip it once and get nice color on 2 sides.
Turn the heat back down, throw in some tamari and chili flakes and basil (what I did last night), let things dry up, and you’re done. Or move forward with some vegetables for a stir fry. Or use as-is with some soba noodles.
So… salt + high heat + nonstick pan = tasty tofu!