Peoplewhoeat’s Weblog

April 13, 2008

Crispy!

Filed under: Healthy, Light lunch, Quick cook, Vegetarian — Tags: , , — peoplewhoeat @ 1:05 am

For me, tofu and rice flour just go together. They’re inextricably linked in my culinary repertoire because of the standard way my mother has cooked me tofu all my life: breading chunks of tofu in flour and frying it. Despite it being the way I cook my tofu, I’ve never seen it done elsewhere. Even tofu at Japanese restaurants which looks the part is never that same satisfying crispy-textured, fluffy-bellied creature; they’re softer with a delicate skin, nice enough in their own way, but not the same.

My mother used to make tofu with regular plain flour and olive oil. Once I had taken over the cooking, I was making tofu but we had run out of both staples, so I used rice flour and vegetable oil. I have never looked back: the texture is so much better, crisp and dry and crunchy on the outside, with an interior like silk. The rice flour doesn’t get scorched as easily as plain flour, either.


The essential tools…

So, the recipe, or rather technique:

Cut a block of firm, drained tofu into rectangles or squares into about inch (2.5cm) sized pieces: what I do is cut the block of tofu into three horizontal pieces, then slice across the block vertically into three. Each piece is then cut across its width in half to make it thinner.

Take a plate and cover it with rice flour. You want to be liberal here! Pour it onto the plate in cups, not tablespoons. Coat (don’t just dust!) the pieces of tofu in rice flour and set aside. You can do this in batches and they can sit for a bit while you heat the oil.

Heat a frying pan (moderately high heat) and add vegetable oil. Again, you want to be liberal here. I usually have enough oil for it to come 0.5cm up the sides of the frying pan. When the oil is hot (toss a piece of tofu in; if it sizzles, it is time) place the rice flour coated tofu in the pan in one layer. After a couple of minutes, turn a few pieces. If the coating is crisp, turn the rest of the pieces and fry on the other side. When you’re done, transfer the pieces with a slotted spoon onto a plate…perhaps a plate lined with paper towels if you’re so inclined; I rarely am, but there we go.

The cooked tofu should be at most a light (very light) gold, or rather, champagne. When you cut into it, the tofu should be firm but still soft and moist. The frying might need to be done in batches.

This tofu is delicious with plain steamed or blanched vegetables and rice. You can serve it with sweet chilli sauce or garlic and chilli sauce or soy sauce. You could also toast some sesame seeds and serve them scattered on top of the tofu (or over the accompanying vegetables). Another gorgeous accompaniment is some blanched asparagus or wilted spinach tossed with extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil, with sesame seeds scattered over it. Either way, the tofu should be eaten hot and as quickly as possible.

Simple, cheap, filling and, although admittedly somewhat bland (salt is a must), a very satisfying meal component with its interplay of texture, and a good vegetarian source of protein. And kind of fun to make.

Eat well…because life’s too short not to!
Chloe

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