In January, people's thoughts often turn to healthy living. It's the time when they join a gym, do juice fasts and seek out restaurants where they can eat healthy. They cut back on bad stuff like sugar, fat and meat.
Which brings us to tofu. High in protein, low on flavor, commonly sold as a generic white blob wrapped in plastic, it might as well be boneless chicken breast. But local restaurants and vendors are doing things with tofu that make this unassuming little curd blossom. The only question is, where is the best tofu in Dallas?
Here's your answer.
With all the attention this Korean fast-food chain lavishes on its infernal wings, you might never know it offers other things – such as bibimbap, the Korean rice comfort dish. You can get it topped with beef, chicken, seafood or this mighty-fine version of tofu in which cubes are battered, then fried until crunchy. Tastes just like chicken!
Denton Vegan Cooperative
The Coop is a roving-band kind of thing without a retail shop, but the vegan food and baked goods are worth seeking out. They supply various coffeehouses such as Jupiter House and Big Mike's, and they can be found at the Denton Community Market every Saturday from April to November. The spring rolls, with tofu, carrots, avocado and cilantro, are light and lovely.
No surprise that this cool, hippie-ish chain out of Atlanta — with eight branches around Dallas, including McKinney, Denton and Frisco — would offer tofu as a topping. But it's what they do with the tofu: toss it in a curry-spice dry rub, grill it and crumble it onto your pizza like ground sausage. Whoo-hoo, what a kick. Get it on a pie with shiitake mushrooms, olives, caramelized onions and red-skin potatoes.
Mot Hai Ba
Like most Vietnamese restaurants, MHB offers tofu as an option for its pho and banh mi sandwich. But owners Colleen O'Hare and Jeana Johnson take it up a notch: They cut it into square medallions, marinate it in a five-spice mix, then roast and double-fry it, like haute-cuisine French fries — delivering a fabulous and flavorful contrast between the super-crunchy coat and the tender firmness within.
The popular Vietnamese food truck recently opened a storefront in Valley View, making it more convenient to find its sandwiches, tacos and rice bowls. Options include pork, lemongrass beef and chicken; but the bestseller is the magical tofu. It's almost like a pressed tofu, with a firm body. But what makes it memorable is the interaction of sauce and crust. The way it caramelizes brings to mind the Maillard reaction that BBQ Snob likes so much.
Pei Wei is a chain a bit past its peak, but its tofu stands up as one of the best. Pei Wei was first to bring to the mainstream the joys of "pressed tofu," in which tofu is pressed flat, removing moisture and acquiring a dense texture that makes it seem more meaty. The restaurant serves it in long, thin slices; just close your eyes and think "bacon." Get the rice bowl with tofu and wok-fried vegetables, including snap peas — yum.
You can find tofu all over the menu at Dallas' premiere vegan restaurant, be it the migas tofu scramble or the popular "Mitch" tofu club. But for tofu luxury, look no further than the tofu Benedict. A slice of tofu is grilled — to get those all-important char marks and flavor — then laid ever so lovingly across Texas toast and tucked in with sautéed spinach, house-made bacon and a blanket of Hollandaise sauce.
Tei Tei Robata Bar
Agedashi tofu is neither complicated nor uncommon at Japanese restaurants. But Tei Tei makes its own, from the tofu up. Its tofu is a silken version – a fearful, quivering thing, cloaked in potato starch and fried until it gets a delicate shell, then served in a hot soy-based broth. Think of the most gentle custard, melting in your mouth, pristine and clean, yet inexorably rich. The fat on a brisket pales next to this.
TJ's is a national gourmet market chain, not a local restaurant; but its tofu is a winner. It's a pressed tofu, so that means a creamy-dense texture, like a firm flan. It comes in two flavors: savory and teriyaki; might as well get them both. Each vacuum-sealed package has two 3.5-ounce servings — 16 grams of protein each, if you're into that kind of thing — ready to be sliced for a "TLT" sandwich, julienned into a salad, or cubed and tossed with olive oil and pasta.
It would be a crime to talk about tofu in Dallas and not include Tuyet, the near-Garland shop where tofu is made fresh every day. If you think of tofu as a cheese, but one that's made with soy milk, not cow, then the idea of having it fresh makes sense. (If you've had fresh ricotta, you know what we're talking about.) In one's journey toward tofu mastery, having it fresh is a must experience – and luckily that experience can be had in Dallas.
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