How to use old tofu and turn ramen noodles into a full meal!


The trouble with tofu is, if you don’t use the whole block in one meal, you’re supposed to store it in a container of water and change the water every day.  That is pretty annoying!  It’s easy to forget it for a couple of days.  Then, when you remember, it doesn’t smell so good.  I mean, plain tofu doesn’t smell very good to me even when it’s fresh, but when it’s old…ewww…even a thrifty, waste-avoiding person could easily conclude that it’s not food anymore.  Well, there is a point when it’s no longer safe to eat, but it takes at least a week to get there (even if you forgot to change the water at all) unless it’s visibly moldy, so follow this handy 4-step process to give new life to old tofu!

  1. Rinse thoroughly and drain out the water.  After pouring off the soaking water, hold your tofu under running water and rinse all sides.  If it’s the extra-firm type, you can even rub it gently.  Shake off droplets.  Now wrap it in a clean cloth towel and squish it.  (Don’t use a paper towel; it might fall apart and stick to the tofu.)  Remove as much water as you can.  You may even want to use a second towel.
  2. Cut into small pieces.  I usually make 1/4″ or 1/8″ cubes.
  3. Cook thoroughly.  If not using the cooking technique below, boil it in broth or bake it in the oven.
  4. Add plenty of flavor.  The rinsed and cooked tofu is not going to smell as bad as it did when you found it in the fridge, but it will still have a less-than-fresh smell/taste that you want to cover up.

You can use your rejuvenated tofu in lots of different recipes, but here’s the one we enjoyed most recently….

Remember those vegetables on sale in April that were so good I ate them for breakfast?  I mentioned that the recipe can be made with frozen shredded vegetables, too.  Well, this recipe I’m about to tell you is basically the same thing with different protein and seasoning, and it’s just as tasty!

If you’re eating this by itself or with rice or soba noodles, you’ll want to add soy sauce.  But we ate it over ramen noodles, which are so salty themselves that no sodium should be added to any other part of the meal.

What?  Ramen noodles?!  You thought I was a healthy eater!  Surely I must be talking about some health-food-store ramen that’s low in sodium, wouldn’t dream of containing MSG or meat extracts or hydrolyzed anything, and has baked whole-grain noodles, right?  Um, no, I’m actually a big fan of Maruchan ramen noodles (not any other brand, and only the Oriental, shrimp, and creamy chicken flavors) despite their obvious flaws.  For someone like me, who tends toward low blood pressure, they’re a great perk-up!  I love the taste, the texture of the noodles, the incredibly low price, and the science-fiction feeling of dropping a prefabricated block of noodlage into boiling water and adding a packet of mysterious powder.  And hey, it’s not like we eat them all the time!  I buy 18 packs at once, and that’s six months’ to a year’s supply for my family of three.

But I’m sure you could make this recipe with a healthier ramen if you are so inclined.

Skizzled Vegetables, Tofu, and Ramen

To make 2 main-dish servings, you will need (all quantities are flexible)

  • 6 ounces tofu, which need not be fresh, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup shredded kale or cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot or sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup diced or thinly sliced onion (green onion is great in this)
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil (available in some supermarkets, Asian stores, and Trader Joe’s–you can substitute another cooking oil, but it won’t taste the same)
  • 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 package ramen noodles

Cook ramen according to directions.

Meanwhile, use spatula to spread oil across bottom of skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add tofu, ginger, and pepper.  Stir.  Lightly press tofu against pan, wait about 20 seconds, then scrape it up and flip it over.  Repeat 3-6 times, until tofu is beginning to brown.  Remove tofu to a bowl.

If any of the vegetables are frozen, follow instructions for cooking frozen vegetables in oil.  (Thaw all the frozen stuff this way; don’t worry about doing onions first.)  When they’re thawed, add the other vegetables and proceed with steps below.

Place onion in the pan and stir until it’s slightly browned.  If it’s sticking, add a little more oil.

Add kale and carrot.  Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until it’s looking cooked.

Return tofu to pan.  Turn off heat and keep stirring until it stops sizzling.

Divide ramen noodles and broth into two bowls.  Top with vegetable mixture.  Eat!

UPDATE: A week after writing this, I found the Food on Fridays blog carnival and decided to enter it there.  The hostess requests that participants place her button at the top of their posts.  This is (after more than four years) the first time I have ever attempted to put any sort of image into any of my posts!  It was easy, though–that is, if I really did it right, which I won’t know until I hit Update–to figure out how to place the image and link it to her page.

UPDATE: I’m linking this to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop.  Hop over there for more than 40 other recipes and cooking articles!

UPDATE: I’m linking this to a linkup of tofu recipes, too!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

7 Responses to How to use old tofu and turn ramen noodles into a full meal!

  1. Ann Kroeker says:

    You did it! You got the image up there (and someone else said I messed up the code and it wasn’t easy, so I’m glad you were able to!).

    So nice to meet you–thank you for your comment regarding my coleslaw. I LOVE this information about tofu, and the recipe. I had some tofu in a pad thai dish one time and it was sooooo good. I wish I knew how they’d prepared it. I didn’t grow up with tofu being a common ingredient, so my mom couldn’t teach me how to incorporate it into everyday cooking. This is a great instructional post!

    • 'Becca says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you like it! My mom did cook with tofu sometimes, so I’ve learned some tricks from her and figured out others for myself.

      I love pad thai and like to try it in different restaurants because it varies so much. There are two kinds of tofu I’ve found in pad thai:
      1. coated in cornstarch and deep-fried. I don’t like this kind much, but I’ll eat it if it isn’t totally sopping with grease.
      2. very firm strips with a sweet flavor and slightly purplish dark brown color. I’m not certain, but I think this is marinated and baked. I have never been able to bake tofu that came out with that consistency (despite trying a couple of recipes), but I’ve bought ready-to-eat marinated baked tofu that was similar.

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  4. Alea Milham says:

    I have never worked with tofu, so I found this all very interesting and informative! thanks for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Hop.

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