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Exploring Jerk Tofu

Is it possible to continue to enjoy the authentic, traditional flavour the Jamaican Jerk pit if you decide to avoid eating animals? Of course, your veggies and even fruit can be marinated in your favourite jerk seasoning and tossed into the oven or on the hot grill in the backyard. But, if you want to explore beyond the grill-loving veggies like eggplant and eringi mushrooms, then tofu is a great alternative for absorbing all the flavour your jerk seasoning can pack. So, let me share one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties and BBQs: Jerk Tofu! But, how do you get the block of soy to hold together and not turn into mush?

Handle With Care

Once I’m looking for a dense and chewy entrée, I start with a firm block. (Soft tofu is better for making desserts or fillings.) If you can find extra firm tofu, even better. But, don’t let the description fool you! Getting the perfect texture for tofu steaks or cutlets, is simple, but requires a gentle hand and patience. No rushing and distracted handling of the block. Basically, the first step is to press the whole block (to get rid of the excess water), then cut it up and marinate it. All through the process, please be sure to handle with care.

By the way, if you’ve never pressed tofu before, what I do is to wrap the block in about 3 sheets of paper towel, then rest it on a plate or cutting board. I cover it with another plate or cutting board, then rest something heavy (like a litre of water, a big can of beans or some thick books). After a while, some water will get pressed out and I will just drain it off the plate and continue to press it. 15-30 minutes of pressing usually works for me.

The Marinade

I’ve used both dry rubs and wet rubs and the longer you let them soak into the tofu, the better. Minimum 30 minutes, ideally overnight. If you want the jerk flavour without starting a fire on your tongue, it is best to scrape or wipe off the excess seasoning before cooking the tofu. Once the heat is applied to the tofu, the jerk seasoning pretty much becomes one with the tofu and you can’t get it off without breaking up the pieces. So, I’d be careful about that – unless you were going for the ‘scrambled tofu’ look 😉

Firming It Up

I use spatulas to lift and flip the tofu slices. But, ultimately I want the tofu to be firm enough to throw onto a hot grill or griddle. So, my strategy is to ‘dry it out’ in the oven. Yup! I line a baking sheet with cooking paper (grease paper or parchment paper), line up the pieces of tofu in a single layer and bake for 20-30 minutes at around 200°C / 400°F. At this point, you could serve the Jerk Tofu as is, but who wants to be mediocre?! Not me! LOL. At this point, I slather on some of my homemade mango BBQ sauce or pineapple BBQ sauce, then broil it for 10 more minutes. The end result is toasted on the outside yet moist and chewy on the inside.

You can enjoy it with Jamaican Rice n’ Peas or get really authentic and fry up some Festivals to balance the spicyness.
Please explore Jerk Tofu in your kitchen, too! Then let me know how you like it.