With Thank Que Grill now incorporating tasty vegetarian and vegan options into their menu of Filipino delights, we decided to sit down with Chef Rene to learn more about what makes his BBQ tofu burst with flavor and what cooking tips he has to share with us.
He breaks down the process into three major steps to achieve deep, rich flavors for your tofu: pressing, marinating, and cooking.
1 package of Firm Tofu
Juice of 2 Calamansi (Filipino Citrus) or 2 Limes or Lemons
1/2 cup of Soy Sauce
1/2 cup of Teriyaki Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar (taste for desired sweetness)
2 Teaspoons of Red Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon of Crushed Black Pepper
4-6 minced cloves of Garlic
2 cups of Banana Ketchup
1 cup of Teriyaki Sauce
For Chef Rene, it's important to determine how the tofu is going to be part of the dish when deciding how to slice it. For example, he slices the tofu into thinner rectangular pieces for his Banh Mi sandwiches (limited space within the buns and other ingredients), and keeps the tofu thicker and more cube-like for his Thank Que Bowl.
Once your tofu is sliced, grab a clean dish towel and gently press against the tofu to extract the water. This may require a few more dish towels to completely remove the water.
EXPERT TIP: Chef Rene recommends laying down a dish towel on baking sheet, placing the tofu on the towel, and then laying another towel on top of the tofu. Then place an additional baking sheet on top of the tofu and add some weight to it. This allows the water to be slowly removed while you can prepare the marinade.
Remember, the more water you can remove the tofu, the more it will be able to soak up the marinade. Just be gentle because you don't want to damage the tofu!
Once your tofu has been pressed for all of its water, it time to prepare the marinade.
Combine the citrus, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, black pepper, and garlic in a medium sized bowl. Mix thoroughly.
EXPERT TIP: Chef Rene also recommends adding oyster sauce, chopped red or green onions, liquid smoke (if not grilling on a BBQ for that smoky flavor), or honey (substitute for brown sugar for deeper flavor). It's important to experiment with flavors and see what you like the best!
Once the marinade is mixed, pour it over the tofu. It's ideal to have the tofu fully submerged in the marinade, otherwise you'll have to turn it over.
Cover the tofu and place in your fridge from 30 minutes to up to 4 hours. The longer the tofu is marinated, the stronger the flavor.
With the tofu now marinated, it's time to get it on the grill or in the oven.
But first, let's make the BBQ sauce: combine the Banana Ketchup and Teriyaki Sauce in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Then get a spoon or cooking brush because we'll be spreading the BBQ sauce on tofu while it's cooking.
EXPERT TIP: if your tofu is sliced thinner, it might cook slightly faster and if it's sliced thicker, it might take longer to cook, than the times listed below.
Cooking on the Grill:
Make sure to get it to a high temperature. Chef Rene makes notes that it's important to have a high heat because the faster the tofu is charred, the less moisture is released from it while it's cooking.
Plan to cook the tofu on each side for roughly 5-7 minutes to get a good char.
Once the tofu is charred on at least one side, flip it over, and spread some BBQ sauce on it.
Repeat this process at least twice to layer in the flavors.
Cooking in the Oven:
We can achieve a similar taste and texture in the oven as we would on the grill.
Preheat the oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit.
Place the tofu on a slightly greased baking sheet on the highest rack of your oven. Like the grill, plan to cook each side of the tofu for 5-7 minutes for a slight crisp texture.
Once the tofu is cooked on one side, flip it over, and spread some BBQ sauce on it.
Repeat this process at least twice to layer in the BBQ flavors.