March 24, 2014

Crispy Tofu

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Tofu with a thin, crisp, tempura-style crust is not diet food, but it sure hits the spot. It makes a great addition to vegan stir-fries. Pile the tofu cubes on top of the veggies or stir them in just before serving. Even when tossed with sauce, this tofu stays pleasantly chewy. Crispy Tofu can also be enjoyed as a savoury snack with dipping sauce, or as a nourishing salad topping. Adapted from a recipe.

     Crispy Tofu atop veggies and sauce. Credit: Susan Sampson

1 lb (500 g) extra-firm tofu
2 cups (500 mL) canola oil
1/4 cup (60 mL) each: cornstarch, all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) kosher salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking powder
1/4 cup (60 mL) each: cold water, vodka
1 tsp (5 mL) sesame seeds, toasted

Line 2 baking sheets with paper towels. Cut tofu block through middle into 2 slabs. Cut each slab lengthwise into 3 batons (each 1-inch/2.5 cm wide). Cut batons crosswise into 1/2-inch (1 cm) wide cubes. Place cubes on 1 prepared baking sheet. Let sit 30 minutes to drain.

In 12-inch (30 cm) skillet, heat oil on medium until shimmery and temperature reaches 350F (180C).

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch, flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk in water and vodka until smooth. (Batter should be consistency of table cream.)

Using paper towel, pat dry tops of tofu cubes. Add tofu to bowl with batter. Stir gently to coat. Cook in 3 batches. For each batch: Use tongs to pick up 1 tofu cube at a time, rap tongs against side of bowl to encourage excess batter to drip off, then place cube in hot oil. Repeat. Fry 4 to 5 minutes, until pale golden, crispy coating forms. Using slotted spoon or mesh scoop, transfer to second prepared baking sheet to drain.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Kitchen Secrets: Vodka thins the batter yet evaporates rapidly when hot – thus promoting crispiness. The batter should be the consistency of table cream.

Oh No: Do not overcook the tofu or it will get tough. The coating should be straw-coloured, not golden-brown.