Our 10 Best Tofu Dishes in NYC
No. 7 Sub's General Tso's tofu.
The end product of coagulated, molded soy milk, tofu is one of America's most beleaguered foods, ridiculed for its wobbly texture and inherently bland flavor. And that's a shame, because the favorite whipping boy of the vegetarian/vegan world has a long and varied history that's all too easily negated by heavy sauces and inept handling. When it's prepared with a modicum of understanding and respect, tofu can be as versatile and satisfying as meat -- and often makes a happy companion to it. Here, we present our 10 favorite tofu dishes across the city. Obviously, yours may vary, so feel free to chime in in the comments.
Ten Ten's chilled tofu.
10. The tofu, basil, and tomato sandwich at François Payard Bakery: Payard transforms the bean curd into an inspired thread so tangy and rich it's easy to mistake it for something far less wholesome than tofu. It's served with diced, ripe tomatoes and spicy arugula. Though the basil is a bit scant, plenty of black olives add savory depth. (116 West Houston Street, 212-995-0888)
9. The grilled tofu sandwich at Black Shack Burger: Here, the tofu patty gets the standard burger treatment: Carpeted with mayo, mustard, and ketchup, it reclines upon a seeded bun with lettuce, pickles, and raw onions. The result: a burger that's every bit as good as its meaty counterparts. (320 Lexington Avenue, 212-213-0042)
8. The sweet tofu pudding at Kyotofu: Kyotofu excels at transforming soy products into dessert, a talent that its signature sweet tofu pudding exemplifies. Smooth, light, and ethereally creamy, it's adorned only with kuromitsu syrup and a black sesame tuile, the latter of which lends a nice contradictory crunch. (705 Ninth Avenue, 212-974-6011)
7. Shredded pork and dried bean curd with Chinese celery at Grand Sichuan St. Marks: Though it's sacrilege to vegetarians, tofu loves it some meat, and pork in particular. Here, the chewy curd adds textural dimension to the shredded pork, and provides a chilled-out counterbalance to the celery's assertive flavor. (23 St. Marks Place, 212-529-4800)
6. The tofu and broccolini at Dirt Candy: The secret to successfully executing a tofu dish at a vegetarian restaurant? Butter. Here, Amanda Cohen takes a crispy-cream slab of bean curd and douses it with orange buerre blanc. Paired with broccoli and broccolini, it's compulsively rich and satisfying as all get-out. (430 East 9th Street, 212-228-7732)
Henan Feng Wei's bean curd skin salad.
5. The bean curd skin salad at Henan Feng Wei: When soy milk is boiled in the tofu-making process, it forms a film or skin on its surface. That skin, comprised mainly of a soy protein-lipid complex, is collected and dried into sheets of tofu skin, also known as bean curd sheet or dried bean curd. Here, at this Northern Chinese restaurant in Flushing, it's garnished simply with a sesame oil dressing. (136-31 41st Avenue, Queens, 718-762-1818)
4. Chilled tofu salad at Ten Ten: At Josh Eden's latest, cubes of soft tofu co-habitate with sliced shiitake mushrooms, watercress, and crunchy pickles. Anointed with a sesame oil-based dressing, it manages to be earthy, cooling, and savory all at once -- it's a wistful nod to a summer that's still so far, far away. (413 Second Avenue, 212-951-7119)
3. Tofu with okra and lemongrass at Nha Trang Centre: A lot of other places have run-of-the-mill tofu with some heavy oyster-like sauce to the tune of Chinese takeout, but Nha Trang's is pleasantly braised and hot and citrusy. Flecks of red chili peppers lend a bit of a hot kick to the dish. Wowzers all around. (148 Centre Street, 212-941-9292)
2. General Tso's tofu at No. 7 Sub: Although Tyler Kord changes this sandwich's ingredients on a regular basis, its namesake soy manifestation remains the same: It's deep-fried to unapologetic excess, and conjures all the reckless, guilty glories of thoroughly Americanized Chinese takeout. Currently served with shredded spaghetti squash, pickled ginger, and shiso, it holds a place of honor in the vegetarian gutbomb canon. (1188 Broadway, 212-532-1680)
1. The fresh tofu at EN Japanese Brasserie: Served naked as a newborn and pure as the driven snow, EN's tofu is made fresh every hour, and comes out warm, fragrant, and as comforting as custard. It's presented in a lacquer box, which is appropriate, since you're receiving the gift of perfection. (435 Hudson Street, 212-647-9196)