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Oct 23, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Just Five: Fried Tofu with Dipping Sauce

May 1st 01:05pm, 2013



My 15-year-old recently announced that she’s become a vegetarian. This isn’t the most uncommon thing for a teenager to do and is far less upsetting than multiple piercings or tattoos, but, nevertheless, this does mean I have to tweak my day-to-day cooking. Back in college, when I was a vegetarian, I mostly subsisted on boxes of macaroni and cheese along with the occasional falafel wrap and salad. I tried eating tofu frequently but never really loved it, except when it was fried. Fried anything is good! A friend told me that the secret to great fried tofu was to drain out as much moisture as humanly possible, and then dredge it in cornstarch, which gives the tofu a nice crispiness.

Making an Asian-style sauce with only three ingredients is no small feat. I knew hoisin and peanut butter would make for a good base. I then tried adding fish sauce, teriyaki, soy sauce and, finally, seasoned rice vinegar. The first three just added saltiness that the sauce didn’t need, but the vinegar added just enough of a sweet and acidic note to give the sauce more depth. If I had more ingredients to play with, I would have added chopped cilantro and Sriracha, but my daughter happily ate it as it was.

Fried Tofu with Dipping Sauce

1 block extra-firm tofu
Oil (vegetable, peanut or canola)
1 cup cornstarch
¼ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup chunky peanut butter
1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar

• Drain the tofu on paper towels for 30 minutes, changing the towels regularly to make the tofu as dry as possible. Cut the tofu in half and then into ½-inch slices.
• Fill a large skillet with a ½-inch layer of oil.
• Cook the oil over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering.
• Working in batches, dredge each piece of tofu in the cornstarch, shaking off excess. Carefully place pieces in the skillet. After about 2 minutes, turn each piece over and fry for 1 to 2 more minutes. Each should be lightly browned. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate.
• Mix hoisin sauce, peanut butter and rice vinegar together in a small bowl. Serve alongside the tofu.

By Dee Ryan

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