These soy-based chikun strips are incredibly easy to make and remarkably resemble grilled strips of seasoned chicken. The ingredients are simple: tofu and a seasoning marinade. The secret is all in the preparation technique. A tofu press is recommended in order to compress the tofu properly and remove as much water as possible. However, the traditional plate and heavy weight method will work too, but the texture may not be as dense.
Each block of tofu will yield 8 ounces of prepared chikun. Most households do not possess more than 1 tofu press, so if you wish to prepare additional chikun strips, press the first block and then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container while additional blocks are pressed. For additional blocks, simply double or triple the water and seasonings in the recipe.
IMPORTANT! DO NOT use a toaster oven for baking the tofu!
• 1 block (14 oz) extra-firm water-packed tofu (not silken tofu)
• ⅓ cup water
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
• ¼ tsp garlic powder
Press the tofu until thoroughly compressed and as much water has been removed as possible (keep stored in the refrigerator while pressing). This will take a minimum of several hours (overnight being ideal). Blot the tofu with a paper towel.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a stainless steel cooking rack on a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Place the block of tofu on the parchment paper and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The tofu will develop a firm golden crust while baking. Let the block cool completely after baking.
Trim the crust from the block of tofu since it will be rather tough. Small amounts of crust may remain – that’s okay. For chikun strips, simply slice the tofu into strips. For shredded chikun, use the tines of a fork to tear off bite-size pieces. Place the strips or shreds into a zip-lock bag.
Now, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. The dry seasoning powders may take a moment to dissolve, so keep whisking until blended. Pour the seasoning marinade over the tofu in the bag. Press as much air out of the bag as possible; seal and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).
Note: Other herbs and spices can be added to the marinade to accommodate specific ethnic food flavors.
For a Tex-Mex variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe and add 1 tsp mild chili powder, an additional ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp ground cumin, an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder and ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder.
For an Asian Stir Fry variation, marinate and sauté the chikun as directed and add a dash or two of tamari while sautéing. Toss with a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce just before removing from the skillet.
For a Mediterranean variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe but reduce the water to ¼ cup. Add 1 T lemon juice, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, an additional ½ tsp onion powder and an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder. Finish with fresh ground black pepper.
The strips or shreds are now ready to be pan-grilled or sautéed. This step is necessary to prepare the chikun for serving or using in recipes. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the chikun including any residual marinade.
Sauté until the excess liquid has evaporated and the chikun is golden. Use a gentle touch while sautéing; the chikun is firm but can break apart excessively if stirred roughly. Use immediately in your favorite hot recipe or chill for use in cold recipes (wraps, salads, etc.) For soups, add the chikun the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time to avoid becoming too soft.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.