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Holy balls, why did I wait so long to try tofu scramble? And why do I say “scrambled eggs” but then “tofu scramble”?

Allow me to end the suspense right now: I have some answers.

Tofu scramble for breakfast

Bowl of awesome!

I waited so long to try tofu scramble because I love eggs and I assumed the point of tofu scramble was to reproduce scrambled eggs if one did not eat eggs. On top of that, I thought one needed silken tofu for tofu scramble, and silken tofu is remarkably hard to come by around here. I mean, it’s out there if you know where to look, but it’s a bit of a special-trip ingredient. And I always imagined it would produce a tofu scramble that was grey, pulpy, and uninspiring. With all these considerations in mind, it’s kind of amazing I tried it at all, which just goes to show you that you should never let your assumptions rule your tofu.

Anyway, I was innocently browsing foodgawker and someone’s tofu scramble appeared. Knock me down and call me soybean, didn’t it look fantastic? Yellow, deliciously crumbly, and tossed with rocket and green peas, it looked amazing. I followed the link and learned their secrets: not only was the cook/blogger in question not vegan (so there goes the idea of it being only for the egg-free crowd who don’t know any better) they used firm tofu, which I totally had in the fridge right that second. The final big secret: add a teensy dash of turmeric when you add the tofu to the pan. Not so much that it imparts any flavour, but enough that it enyellows the tofu. Magically, you’ve now got an appetising egg lookalike! Obstacles dissolved, I charged into it.

It’s fantastic! Wowee. It’s filling, protein- and veggie-rich, tasty and savoury, and the texture is wonderful. This has become my go-to when I want something fast, filling and flexible on toast. Perfect for breakfast, dinner, lunch, or any of the in-between meals, like brunch and linner. Don’t be confined to the artificial meal triptych!

I won’t post a specific recipe, because it changes based on what’s in the fridge. However, here’s my process, in dot-points:

  • Crumble your firm tofu and get everything chopped and ready before you switch the heat on. I don’t bother pressing the tofu before I start, because frying it after crumbling takes care of any excess moisture and it’s really not an issue. Crumble it finely by hand: really get in there and smoosh it into crumbles. Go on! Get it! Show that tofu who’s boss! YOU ARE! YEAH!
  • Start with some chopped shallot or onion. As it starts to brown, add your crumbled tofu. Add a tiny tiny amount of ground turmeric. As I said above, you don’t want enough that you taste it (I mean, it’s not gross or anything, and you could totally add some curry powder and stuff as well to complement it, but it’s not usually the flavour profile I’m shooting for), but about 1/8-1/16 of a teaspoon will be enough to yellowify the tofu. 
  • Add any other spices that turn your crank: mustard seeds, cumin, cardamom, maybe a dash of amchar if you’ve got it kicking around. It’s your tofu, do what you like! You will almost certainly need salt and pepper, however. I usually use ground white pepper and some cumin seeds.
  • As the pan starts to dry with the frying — you can tell because the tofu starts sticking a bit — add a dash of liquid: I usually throw in some milk (either moo or soy, depending on what’s in the fridge, but you could totally use almond or coconut milk too).
  • Add chopped fresh herbs: coriander/cilantro; flat leaf parsley; basil; dill; sage; whatever!
  • VERY IMPORTANT (to me): nutritional yeast flakes! If you’re lukewarm on the nootch, this recipe may well seal it for you. It really sings in this recipe, and gives everything a slightly more robust savoury taste and a richer mouthfeel.
  • Add chopped vegetables: my favourites are leafy things like spinach or rocket, and green peas. As you see above, I opted for broccoli and spinach. Add a dash more liquid, reduce the heat, and put a lid on the pan to cook the veggies through. Plunge your toast.
  • Toast’s up! Veggies are cooked through! Time to eat it!

For me, the critical ingredients are tofu, turmeric, salt/pepper, and nutritional yeast. You could totally cook that up for a killer brunch: throw together a side of mushrooms, maybe some grilled zucchini and some caramelised onion, and you’d be a brunch hero. In fact, I challenge you to prepare this meal and not be a total brunch hero. You’ll probably get a cape in the mail and everything.

The unresolved language issue hangs over us: why say “scrambled eggs” and then “tofu scramble”? Surely it would be more consistent and no less accurate to say “scrambled tofu”? I think it’s a question of imprinting: when I first encountered tofu of the scrambled variety, it was described as “tofu scramble”. And since it was a new concept in need of a label, it was completely fine to adopt a new one, regardless of any existing similar concepts and their labels. I now think “scrambled tofu” would be something entirely different, like tofu that had been run through the blender to get a scrambled egg consistency, and I would not enjoy that at all. (I think.) And I think “egg scramble” would be a dish that involved lots of disparate ingredients brought together by the presence of a destructured egg, which is not scrambled eggs. (More like bubble ‘n’ squeak, actually.) So while I acknowledge the surface-level inconsistency, I think a deeper analysis of the use of both labels (and their unused inverses) reveals a solid logical basis underpinning the unconscious decision making process.

*mic drop*

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