Sweet and Sour Tofu (Tang Cu Doufu)
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Most plant-based spins on meat dishes aren’t one-for-one substitutes, but many of them will satisfy your craving anyway. Take the sweet and sour tofu from Tiffy Chen’s new cookbook, Tiffy Cooks: 88 Easy Asian Recipes from My Family to Yours, which will win over the most carnivorous skeptic at your table.
Chen created this recipe for a vegetarian friend who’d never tried sweet and sour chicken. “Tofu is such a great protein because it’s healthy and really soaks up flavors,” writes Chen. “It also cooks fast and is super versatile…pair it with fried rice or chow mein and you have yourself some takeout at home!”
One key step is soaking the tofu in a salt brine to draw out as much excess moisture as possible. Then, it’s patted dry and coated in tapioca starch for supremely crispy results. Poultry who?
Reprinted with permission from Tiffy Cooks: 88 Easy Asian Recipes from My Family to Yours by Tiffy Chen. Copyright © 2024 by Yin Chu Chen and Tokytiffy Consulting Ltd. Photographs copyright © 2024 by Ching Ying Wong. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
1 pound medium-firm tofu, cut into bite-size cubes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tablespoon plum sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Toasted sesame seeds, for serving
Chopped scallions, green part only, for serving
1. In a medium bowl, soak the tofu in the salt and 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Make sure all the tofu is submerged. The brine will draw out excess moisture from the tofu, helping it become crispy and flavorful when cooked. Drain the tofu and pat it dry with a paper towel.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the tapioca starch and white pepper. Add the tofu and gently toss to coat it completely. Let the tofu sit in the mixture for about 5 minutes to ensure the coating sticks.
3. Heat the canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and fry it until crispy and golden brown all over, 7 to 8 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to a large plate. Pour the oil out of the pan and wipe it clean.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, ketchup, rice vinegar, light soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, plum sauce and sugar.
5. Add the sauce to the pan and simmer it over medium heat until it thickens, for about 2 minutes. Add the crispy fried tofu, increase the heat to high and sauté for about 1 minute, turning to coat with the sauce.
6. Transfer the tofu to a plate and garnish it with the sesame seeds and scallions. Serve immediately.