The Student Newspaper of Groton School

The Circle Voice

The Student Newspaper of Groton School

The Circle Voice

The Student Newspaper of Groton School

The Circle Voice

What Do We Do With 24 Blocks of Tofu?

Amanda Chang ’26

When you are staggering into the Dining Hall after a long day of majors and afternoon activities, the greatest comfort in the world is sitting down with a plate of steaming hot food. Dazed with hunger, all you see is heaps of the beautifully laid out, buffet-style food. But how much is there that we don’t see? At last, sous chef Jamal Coleman draws back the curtain, revealing the well-oiled inner workings of our beloved Dining Hall. In this article, Jamal explains the meticulous process of preparing one cherished Dining Hall meal in particular: fried tofu.

“My favorite food at the Dining Hall is the crunchy tofu. It’s really unique in the way the flavors blend with the texture. I’m always so excited on tofu days,” says Aisling Kennedy, ’27. Countless students have often hailed fried tofu as their favorite Dining Hall food; the line never seems to shrink as students spring up from their seats to grab second, third, even fourth servings.

To begin the process, Jamal explained, the Dining Hall stocks tofu in large quantities. “We often use multiple cases of tofu,” Jamal said “That can mean up to 24 bricks, all sliced, fried, and seasoned.” When the ingredients arrive, the flurry of movement begins. On a day of serving fried tofu, the Dining Hall staff must prepare the dish in bulk in order to satisfy everyone.

“There are a lot of people who get hungry at Groton, and we have to match their level,” Jamal explained. “Whenever we make something, we have to be sure that we’ll make enough for everyone to come back for seconds. On a burger day, we make anywhere from 500 to 600 burgers. When we open up the Ramen Bar, we make the broth in pots big enough to fit a whole person inside. Think cooking but scaled up to a huge amount.”

The process itself of making the tofu may seem simple, yet Jamal revealed that it can be quite time consuming. “First we have to press the tofu to get rid of its moisture,” Jamal said. “That leaves it dry and firm which makes it so much better to fry. Sometimes we leave it to press overnight to make sure we really get that nice texture. When we’re in a rush though, a few hours will do the trick.”

Next, the tofu is tossed in a generous layer of cornstarch. “Another important aspect about our job is that we have to take into consideration everyone’s dietary restrictions and preferences,” said Jamal. “We don’t use eggs to make the coating so people who might be vegan can also eat the tofu. It adds something to consider when we’re making food.”

Last, but certainly not least, Jamal scoops the tofu into a massive pan for frying, turning the pale white tofu into crispy-brown perfection while pouring sweet chili oil on top to add a final flourish to a well-loved comfort food. The entire process can take anywhere from three hours to a whole day full of dashing back and forth to toss, fry, and season. However, Jamal remains enthusiastic about the process: “It’s hectic, yeah!” he said. “But we get it done!”

Every bite of food becomes more meaningful when we examine the process behind this Dining Hall fan favorite. So the next time you see your favorite meal on display, don’t forget to thank your Dining Hall servers and chefs, and remind them of our gratitude for their delicacies. And when you are chewing and laughing with your friends, know that the food on your plate was crafted with a fragment of joy in mind.

“The best part of [our] jobs is watching everyone become happy,” said Jamal, “especially the kids.”

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