Let me start this post by saying, I missed y’all! I have been a little lax, shall we say, in posting. But I have a really good reason. You see there are only so many hours in a day and with taking a summer class for a certificate program there just weren’t enough to work, sleep, study, blog, and enjoy the summer. OK that is more of an excuse but hey I like sleep and summer, I stand by my choice.
With that out of the way, let us dive right into the deliciousness that is pan-fried crispy tofu. I love ordering the crispy tofu appetizers at Thai restaurants but that gets pricy (and fatty since it is deep fried) fast. It’s the crispy outside and the fluffy/creamy inside combo that gets me. I just love the texture. Now my version requires the tofu to be thinner than the restaurant version because it is fried in a pan so the ratio of crispy to creamy is off a bit but I can live with that.
Now the most important part of this is the prep work. It sounds like a lot of prep but most of it is inactive. It felt wrong at first to not press the tofu, I mean that is what I was always told to do, but after trying this once, I was sold. By letting the thinner sliced tofu drain on towels, you remove enough of the moisture while not compressing the tofu so it can be fluffy. But I digress, the rest of the process is below.
As an added bonus, I have included a sticky chili sauce to go with the tofu. Serve with rice and veggies (my preference is snap peas, green beans, bell peppers, or broccoli) and you have a delicious dinner that you only think is bad for you.
1 package extra firm tofu
3 tbsp corn starch, divided
4 cups boiling salt water
3 tbsp coconut oil
For the sauce:
2 tbsp reduced sodium tamari (or soy sauce if gluten isn’t an issue for you)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp corn starch
Slice the tofu into 10-12 slices, each about ¼-inch thick. Lay the tofu out flat on either clean tea towels or paper towels, then cover the tofu with more towels. Gently press the towels down to make sure there is complete contact for optimum water absorption. Leave for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, bring the salt water to a boil.
Lay the tofu in a single layer in a colander or large mesh sieve to allow the water to drain through. Pour the boiling water over the tofu and quickly drain it. (This step seasons the tofu and helps pull out more moisture.)
Place the tofu on another layer of towels, again covering with a second layer. Press down gently to dry the surface of the tofu as well as to remove any remaining water in the tofu. At this point you can either leave the tofu in larger slices, or you can cut it into bite sized pieces. Preheat a large sauté pan (I love my All-Clad for this, but non-stick would work too but you will have to reduce the amount of oil) to medium heat.
In a pie pan or medium sized bowl, add about 1 tablespoon of the corn starch. Gently toss half the tofu in the starch till evenly coated. You only want a thin layer or it will have a powdery taste and burn more easily.
Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan and evenly space out the tofu – you do not want to crowd the pan at this stage or you won’t get a crispy texture. You will also want to keep the pan to a strict medium heat, if it is too high the starch will burn before it gets crispy.
Cook about 5 minutes each side or until golden brown. When you flip the tofu, it helps to add another half tablespoon of oil (I drop it to the center of the pan and swirl it out to the edges). Remove the tofu from the pan and place it on a paper towel while you cook the second batch.
Optional Sauciness…I mean sauce, the –ness is all a matter of attitude.
Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl. If you make it ahead of time, make sure to give it a quick stir before you add it to the pan so the corn starch doesn’t settle. Once the tofu is removed from the pan, pour the sauce into the still hot pan and start to stir immediately. As soon as it starts to thicken, remove from the heat and add back in the tofu. You will need to work quickly to toss the tofu and evenly coat it with the sauce. If you want to serve this as an appetizer, instead of tossing the tofu, pour the sauce into a serving dish for dunking.
Top image is texture of sauce when you either remove it from the pan or add the tofu!
Serve immediately (with rice and veggies for a full meal or solo for an appetizer).
Serves 4. Prep time – 1.5 hours (1 hour inactive). Cook time 25 minutes.