Crispy, Sweet & Spicy Tofu
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Cooking with tofu is not a simple feat. If you're like me and don't have a lot of experience with this type of cooking, you've probably experienced this: a mushy, scrambled egg-like tofu mess, coupled with some feelings of disappointment and defeat. After my first few attempts, I was honestly beginning to think that delicious, crispy tofu just couldn't be made at home. But, one day, things changed, and I'm here now to tell you that it's all going to be okay! We're gonna get through this together! Practice makes perfect and I think I finally hit the nail on the head!
Lesson #1 is to use Extra Firm Tofu (always organic, if possible) and get as much of the water out as you can. Waterlogged tofu is really difficult to work with and will fall apart the moment it hits the pan. I've tried a few different methods in the past, including the plate-squishing method, the cast iron skillet-press method, and the heavy book-press method, but with each method, I inevitably destroy most of the tofu block with too much uneven pressure. *cries a single tear*
Then, when I had almost abandoned all hope, I discovered one of the most incredible kitchen tools I had ever seen...a Tofu Press! I found it on Amazon (and you can, too, right here) and it has absolutely saved my life! If you cook with tofu often, this tool is definitely a worthwhile investment. It evenly distributes adjustable weight and presses the tofu just enough to squeeze all of that water out. Trust me– this press is a game changer!
You should press the tofu for about 10-15 minutes. Afterwards, pat dry with a paper towel really well. Slice up your tofu block into bite site pieces and lay them all out flat on a plate or baking sheet. A lot of people will suggest marinating the tofu to allow it to absorb a maximum amount of flavor, but I personally do not recommend that because again, waterlogged tofu is really difficult to handle.
For this recipe, you'll just quickly dip the tofu pieces in a sauce mixture and then toss them in some leftover sauce at the end. I promise it will still be very flavorful! But, before you dip the tofu in the sauce, lightly dust it with some corn starch (you can also use arrowroot powder if you'd prefer). I recommend using a small mesh sifter for this part just to ensure you're not over-doing it with the starch. Dust all sides of each tofu piece. Then, with a fork or oil skimmer, quickly dip each piece into the sauce mixture. Next, add the tofu to a preheated pan, on MEDIUM heat, with a little bit of cooking oil and sauté for about 10-12 minutes, or until it's nice and crispy. Just make sure to get a nice, even char on all sides.
I try not to flip or turn the pieces too much in order to preserve their shape. Turning too much can cause the tofu to fall apart. So, while I'm allowing that goodness to cook away, I need something to distract me from my OCD tendencies! In a separate pan, I start sautéing some veggies. I love adding broccoli, snow peas, red bell peppers, and water chestnuts to this recipe because they all add a delightful crunch to the dish, but feel free to use whatever veggies you'd like!
Once the veggies and the tofu are done cooking, toss everything together in one pan with the leftover sauce. Heat it all back up for 2-3 minutes and serve immediately over some rice or quinoa.
NOTE: If there's a wee bit of corn starch floating in your leftover sauce, that's okay! It will actually help the sauce thicken and adhere to veggies better when you toss it all together. Just give it a little whisk before you pour it in the pan to get rid of any clumps.
Remember to take your time with tofu and don't let it defeat you! You can do this! It truly is an art form, but once you get it down, you'll be wanting to make tofu recipes every night of the week!