Vegan Monday: Spicy Fried Tofu

Lately I have been craving fried tofu that is creamy in the center and crispy on the outsides. I suppose it is in part because a few weeks ago, I had a sandwich containing this magical mix of textures, and the added bonus of giardinera (another thing on my canning list this summer), at Comet. On my last visit to my Parents house, I had a Spicy Chinese Tofu dish at our favorite Chinese spot in Tomah, Peking Chinese. It was exactly what I wanted there as well: creamy tofu cubes with crunch, and served in a spicy Chinese brown sauce.

I never really dreamed that I could make a comparable tofu at home, but when I saw this post last week for Japanese Style Salt and Pepper Tofu from Almost Bourdain, I knew right away that I had to try it. Since I wasn't overly hungry last night, I figured I'd try it out - just to see if it would be everything that I hoped it would be. It was!

Ordinarily, I hate frying in my house. Not only are there health concerns, but more importantly, I have no hood ventilation - so any frying immediately results in a cloudy, smoky home. But for this tofu, I'd happily endure that small annoyance. Though I ate these bites rather snack-like, it would be easy to make a meal out of them by adding a rice and vegetable bowl or even floating them across an Asian style soup at the last moment. Any way you try them, they are addicting (and easy) enough that you will certainly find yourself wanting to include them in your cooking in all different ways.

With Sweet Million and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from the back yard... This could be a very sophisticated appetizer!

Ellie uses potato starch, which I did not have. I did have tapioca flour, and it worked wonderfully. She also deep fries, whereas I decided to pan fry, so if you opt for deep frying, make sure your oil is at least 3 inches deep at 350 degrees. I scaled the seasoning down to accommodate a smaller amount of tofu - the amount listed will easily season a whole package of firm tofu (I used local brand Simple Soyman), though I wouldn't recommend using a "silken firm" style of tofu since the textures would not be the same.

Spicy Fried Tofu (adapted from Almost Bourdain)
  • 1 package firm tofu (about 500 g.)
  • 2 T. kosher salt
  • 3/4 t. white pepper
  • 1/4 t. Chinese 5 spice powder
  • tapioca flour, for dredging
  • green onions, cherry tomatoes, and aleppo pepper for garnishing
  • grape seed oil for frying
Heat oil over medium high heat in a skillet, using enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Mix salt, pepper and 5 spice powder in a small bowl. Cut the tofu into cubes, about 1 inch by 2 inches, and dredge in the tapioca flour until all the surfaces are covered. Let sit for at least 30 seconds. Sprinkle with seasoning mixture, and fry in hot oil until golden, turning as each side browns. This will take 10-20 seconds per side depending on the heat of your oil. I turned them using a pair of chopsticks. Remove to drain on kitchen towel or paper towel. Garnish with onions and/or tomatoes and at them when they are still hot, and you will be rewarded with a crisp exterior and a smoothly creamy interior.

I used quite a bit of the salt mixture, and had a salty crunch to the outsides. The insides remained creamy and I was so excited that I had made something that was exactly what I was hoping for. You could also experiment with a whole host of spices for the outside, almost eliminating the salt if you desired.

While I was fully aware that I was planning to post this for the Vegan Monday series, I could not help serving up one of the pieces with some of my homemade yogurt. Laura was just telling me how she strains her yogurt through a handkerchief to separate the whey from the solids, leaving behind the thickest Greek-style yogurt you have ever tasted. Previously, I had used a coffee filter, which also works, but I was able to fashion a "bag" out of the handkerchief and hang it up to drain. I also collected the whey to use in other projects. Yogurt would be a good accompaniment to this spicy fried tofu, and I'm going to work on a vegan yogurt version straight away.

I did take a look at some labels on soy yogurt during my last shopping trip. I just have to give this a try and report back next week. Yogurt cultures are adaptable to soy milk, but I think that I need to purchase a soy yogurt to use as a live starter. If I had this foresight prior to making this delicious fried tofu, I would not have to take back this vegan post and re-label it, well at least a couple bites of it, a vegetarian post.

Either way, this is so good I know that I'll be playing around with it for a while!