For vegetarians and vegans, tofu is a versatile, affordable protein that is highly variable when it comes to flavor. When I started cooking with tofu, I kept hearing, “Tofu is as good as the taste with which you cook it.” With textures from silky to particularly firm you can use tofu as an alternative to meat or as a base for dessert. The idea that it’s hard to get tofu right keeps many from trying to cook with it or eat it when it’s on the menu. However, there are some places in Pittsburgh that do tofu justice. Here are eight of our favorites:
639 E. Warrington Ave., Allenttown. onionmaiden.com
Their vegan Onion Maiden menu has an item called Balls to the Wall. This dish includes tofu croquettes served with black rice, sauteed cabbage, bean sprouts, red, cabbage, soy caramel and sesame seeds. Forming tofu into croquettes (fried balls of vegetables or protein) is a unique rotation as opposed to simply frying in a pan.
5202 Butler St., Lawrenceville. b52pgh.com
B52 is another completely vegan restaurant that makes tofu very well. For breakfast they have both Tofu Scramble and Kofta Scramble with tofu. For the uninitiated, Tofu Scramble is exactly what it sounds like: an alternative to scrambled eggs. The B52 makes their Tofu Scramble with kale, sauteed shiitake as well as potatoes and onions, while the Kofta Scramble comes with a seitan jacket, cabbage, potatoes and onions and harissa.
202 38th St., Lawrenceville. umamipgh.com
The Umami menu has several tofu dishes, such as Agedasi with fried tofu in spicy dasha broth, enoki mushrooms, daikon, champignons and katsuobusi (smoked and fermented tuna skipjack). They also have miso soup with tofu, wakame (a variety of seaweed) and negi (long green onions).
Smiling banana leaf
5901 Bryant Street, Highland Park. smilingbananaleaf.com
A smiling banana leaf is a staple of Highland Park, and for good reason. In their menu you can substitute tofu most proteins in dishes with noodles and fried meats. For their small section you can get Tofu Paradise, fried tofu with nappa cabbage, carrots and peanut sauce or simple fried tofu with sweet and sour sauce and ground peanuts. In both cases the tofu is crispy and fried to perfection.
1506 E. Carson St., South Side. viridispgh.com
Yes, we just did Food review for Viridisbut it is worth mentioning them again because their tofu egg is delicious. Egg from tofu stands out for its delicious egg-like taste and fluffy texture whether they are stuffed in their breakfast burritos or delicately laid out on cookies with bacon, egg and cheese.
4923 Penn Avenue, Garfield. simonchough.wixsite.com
So much has been said about Tofu killer in Soju, but I would have been inadmissible if I had not mentioned it here. With fried tofu mixed in pineapple soy glaze, it’s essentially murder. So many people admire it as it should, so let’s just add another voice to the praise.
Ba Be’s Kitchen
Liberty Avenue, 951, downtown. baebaes.kitchen
Bae Bae’s is great if you work downtown and want to go in for lunch. It is crowded, so try to go as early as possible. Ba Be’s style is to have you build a bowl with rice, noodles or greens; add protein like their fried tofu; and then, add extras and parties that change daily. Their tofu is perfectly seasoned and fragrant, and it’s a great way to get to know the ingredient if you’re unfamiliar.
Banh Mi & Ti
4502 Butler St., Lawrenceville. instagram.com/bahnmiandti
Banh Mi is the perfect sandwich that becomes even more perfect when you add crispy fried tofu to the mix. Complement jalapeno, shrirachu or mayonnaise if you’re not going vegan, and enjoy the delicate tofu of this restaurant. Banh Mi & Ti has easy toast frying, so it is not as heavy as in some other places where tofu is cooked.