In the interest of shaking things up, I made a tofu dish. My friend Justin requested a post on how to make tofu crispier, and while this isn’t exactly what he was talking about (he meant pan-fried, like in a stir fry) I thought this pretty, pretty dish was still worth telling people about. First off, the sauce is DELICIOUS. You know when you order orange chicken in a Chinese restaurant? Well this is 40 times tastier than that. Secondly, I baked the tofu instead of pan fry it, because I didn’t have time to babysit it while it cooked. That worked just fine, especially when I sprayed the tofu with more oil. The panko got really crunchy, and because of the flour dredge it didn’t fall off the tofu. The thing I can compare this to most is a tofu version of chicken tenders.
A couple of notes on cooking with tofu:
1. DRAIN IT. To drain tofu, you take it out of the package, wrap it in a triple layer of paper towel, wrap that in a clean, absorbent dish towel and place it on a plate. Then put something heavy on top of the tofu, like a bowl (or a big bottle of balsamic vinegar, which is what I did). Let the liquid seep out for 20 minutes, then unwrap and slice it up however you want.
2. Tofu is tasteless. People who say they like tofu are really saying “the texture doesn’t totally offend me and I like whatever sauce it happens to be in, also I may be vegetarian and eat tofu so as to ward off malnutrition”. Because tofu tastes like nothing and feels like a cross between a marshmallow and a gummy bear, only wet and sort of crumbly. But it is really good for you, and since it takes on the flavor of whatever you put it in, it’s a really good meat substitute. It’s also cheap, readily available and will keep in the fridge awhile. The point is: make sure you take the time to marinate it, or season it or whatever, otherwise it’ll taste like nothing.
3. Tofu comes in different types, like silken (really goopy, good in smoothies) soft (scrambled egg substitute? I have no idea) and firm and super firm (cubed tofu in stir fries, etc.). Make sure you buy the right kind.
Crispy Orange Tofu
1 package super firm tofu, drained and chopped into 1-2 inch cubes
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs. In my opinion, far superior to regular.)
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup flour
dash each of garlic powder, coriander and cinnamon
1 cup orange juice (I used fresh squeezed, because I had oranges)
4 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sweet Thai chili sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
To assemble the sauce, put all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Let it boil gently for awhile, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, until it reduces. If it’s still too runny for your taste, whisk in a half a teaspoon of flour, and then cook for another 3-4 minutes.
For the tofu, set up three bowls, one with the flour, one with the panko and the spices, and one with the egg and the water (whisked together). Spray down a cookie sheet with Pam and set the oven to 375 degrees. With each chunk of tofu, dredge it in the flour, then the egg mixture, than coat in the panko/spice mixture, and set on the cookie sheet. Do this for all the tofu. Spray the tofu again with Pam before you put it in the oven. Bake it, turning every 10 minutes or so, for about 30 minutes, or until the tofu is golden brown.
Serve it on a perfect white plate with some orange slices next to it and attractive wood in the background.