When I first became vegetarian around 4 years ago, I thought I hated tofu.
Probably because the only previous experience I’d had with it was my mum’s disastrous attempt at her own garlic tofu recipe, which was literally just a combination of garlic and mushy, bland tofu.
Safe to say, I thought I was put off for life.
And so, upon choosing to go meatless, I instantly gravitated towards pre-prepared meat replacements in the form of Quorn and Linda McCartney, both of which offer a good range of vegetarian protein staples.
Although the accuracy of meat-replacement offerings have improved considerably in recent years, to the point where we now have vegan steaks which literally leak fake blood, I have always been dissatisfied with the meatless chicken replacements. Often bland, chewy and more expensive than its faux-beef counterpart, one could hardly convince a vegetarian to eat it, let alone a meat-eater.
Falling for Tofu Again
After finally trying marinated tofu at a restaurant and falling in love with its firm-on-the–outside, soft-on-the-inside texture, I got to thinking: what if we could somehow combine the delicious, silky texture of tofu with the unique flavour of chicken, without using meat?
I started looking for marinade recipes that could be a suitable mimicry, but they were often too salty or spicy, or required too many hard-to-find ingredients. I wanted something that I could just throw together without having to chop a million vegetables and spices; and one day, in an unrelated soup-based venture, I stumbled across Marigold Bouillon.
This unassuming pot of powder is one of the best ways of creating a faux chicken-y flavour, due to the combination of spices often used to flavour chicken, plus yeast extract which infuses dishes with a delicious salty creaminess.
Personally, I prefer the reduced-salt version, but it is getting more and more difficult to find on the shelves. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find online.
My tofu of choice is always extra firm, and Blue Dragon makes one of my favourites. It easily firms up after pressing, and really holds its own against a hot pan or oven. However, regular firm tofu will work fine if it’s all you can access.
The combination of this bouillon, plus the incredible flavour-absorbing properties of tofu, creates what is, in my opinion, one of the easiest and juiciest meatless ‘chicken’ replacements I have found.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Feeds: 2 people as a main, or 4 if used as a side dish
Tofu Chicken Rice Salad Ingredients
- 1 block of firm or extra-firm tofu
- 2-3 tablespoons Marigold Reduced Salt bouillon
- 250ml cold water
- 1 cup quick-cook rice (preferably brown)
- 100g beans (these can be edamame or mixed beans. Make sure to drain them if they are canned)
- 100g sweetcorn
- ¼ chopped onion
- Leftover marinade
- ¼ tablespoon ground chilli (optional)
- ½ tablespoon ground garlic (optional)
- 1 tablespoon liquid aminos (optional)
Remove the tofu from its packaging and press it by sandwiching it between two layers of paper towels and placing a heavy object, such as a heavy pan or chopping board, on top for at least 30 minutes. This will drain out the excess water, a necessary step to ensure the tofu keeps its shape during cooking.
Once pressed, cut the tofu into your preferred shape, whether that be squares, slices, nuggets – you can even use cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes for kids (or adults who are young at heart)!
To marinade, begin by moving the tofu pieces to a container (I like to use whatever Tupperware is lying around), making sure that they are in one layer, rather than being piled on top of each other. Then, simply combine the bouillon and water and pour it over the top, so that each piece of tofu is lying in the bouillon. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes to overnight.
Once marinated, line a baking tray and use a spatula to scoop the tofu onto it, allowing the marinade the drain back into the container. Don’t throw away the marinade!
Bake the tofu at 180°C for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for 15 minutes on the other side. Baking is healthier than frying as it does not require oil, and I also prefer not to bake tofu in cornflour. This makes the final result softer and juicier, rather than having a crispy coating.
While the tofu is baking, begin preparing the salad.
Preparing the Tofu Salad
Quick-cook rice takes around 10 minutes to fully cook. I tend to throw half a tablespoon of bullion into the water for extra flavour, and throw the beans, onions and sweetcorn into the rice pot around 2 minutes before the rice is finished. This helps the flavours combine, and also means less washing up!
Drain the salad once fully cooked, and stand to the side while you prepare your marinade.
You can simply warm up the leftover marinade in a pan and use that as a light dressing, however, I like to add more flavour by adding dried chillies, garlic and some liquid aminos. You can replace the liquid aminos with soy sauce, but if you are going to do this, use half the amount to avoid making the dressing overly salty.
Finally, lay the tofu on top of the salad, drizzle with the dressing and serve!
This recipe is great for make-ahead lunches as it will keep in the fridge for 3 days after cooking.
Hot tip: Tofu does not need to be cooked to be edible, so if you’d like to save time, simply throw the tofu straight on top of the rice salad after marinating. Just be aware that the texture of uncooked tofu is very soft and may not be for everyone.
So there you have it; an easy, quick, faux-chicken recipe that even carnivores will enjoy!