I think of tofu as an innocuous, bland source of protein I will order in a restaurant when I don’t want to go the fish route. In a curry or smothered with vegetables, it is edible. I much rather prefer seitan, as its chewy texture gives me more satisfaction.
Yet, tofu can be good. Its neutral taste means that it will take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. I tend to pan-fry it and toss it with grains, in large bowls I call the kitchen sink, where I use one flavor profile and then I pile on whatever vegetables I have in the fridge.
I am often asked how to cook it. The answer is: over high heat, after marinating it for 30 minutes or so.
What I am offering you here is the most basic recipe – substitute soy and mirin for whatever marinade you like (or ready-made sauce for that matter), and then cook it according to the instructions. If you add a bit of honey or sugar (there is sugar in mirin), it will caramelize better.
Always use medium/firm or firm tofu (the soft one I use to blend in desserts) and always dry it well with paper towels. Cut it into 1/2″ slices and let it marinate (on both sides) with a couple of tablespoons of soy and one tablespoon of mirin.
Heat a cast iron pan (or frying pan) on high heat and pour some neutral tasting oil (or coconut, if you like the flavor). Let it heat until nearly smoking then place the tofu in the pan. Lower the heat to medium/high and let cook, undisturbed, for 5 to 7 minutes. Flip it and cook the other side for the same amount of time.
The result will be a slightly caramelized piece of protein that is now ready to be added to a salad, a grain bowl or, as I did today, eaten with leftover mashed potatoes.