Recipe: sesame tofu
I had the opportunity to enjoy several meals with my parents this summer, because of their extended stay in Boulder. It became so routine that my parents would sometimes order Chinese takeout and supplement it with some of their own Chinese dishes. On one occasion, Mom had ordered sesame tofu. Believe it or not, I had never had it before. It was good, albeit greasy in that Chinese restaurant way. A few weeks ago, I had a sudden craving for sesame tofu and said to myself (as I always do), “I bet I could make that.”
sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, green onions, tamari, sesame oil, honey, rice vinegar, cornstarch, tofu, garlic
Don’t you just love when you find out how easy it is to make a recipe at home? And the more experience you have with cooking and baking, the more accessible recipes become. Not only does it demystify cooking, but you also understand what goes into your food and ultimately, into your body. Plus, you get to tweak it to your liking! I’m all about customization, don’t you know.
The first step is to press the extra-firm tofu. It always sounded so tedious to me, but it’s quite simple. Wrap the block of tofu (extra-firm) in paper towels and place it on something flat. Then set a heavy flat-bottomed something or other (bowl, plate, etc.) on the tofu to help press out liquid. While gravity and pressure do their things, you can prepare the sauce.
pressing the tofu
sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari, minced garlic and ginger, honey, hot pepper flakes
adding tamari to the mix
stir the sauce together and warm it on the stove
While the sauce is on a low simmer, mince your green onions and then unwrap your tofu if it has been pressed for 20 minutes. 20 minutes is not a magic amount of time. I actually pressed the tofu for 30 minutes because I was shooting two recipes at the same time. Oh well. Pat the block of tofu with dry paper towels and dice it. I cubed mine to just under 1-inch cubes… more like 3/4-inch cubes.
mince the green onions
towel it off
Tofu gets such a bad rap, which is a shame. I love the stuff, and it’s not just because I’m frying it up and dousing it with sauce (as in this case). Tofu in soups, stews, salads, stir-fries – it’s all good in my book!
dust with cornstarch
gently toss to coat
fry to a golden brown
drain on towels
I worried that this might fry aggressively with lots of splattering because of the moisture in the tofu, but it behaved quite well under its shell of cornstarch. The frying time was about four or five minutes to reach a light golden color. Once the tofu is done frying, it’s go time. Take the sauce off the burner (remember, it was simmering the whole time – actually, I shut the heat off the moment I started frying) and pour about half of it over the tofu. Dress the tofu with the sesame seeds (the recipe calls for 1/2 cup sesame seeds, I found 1 tablespoon to be sufficient) and green onions.
pour the sauce over the golden cubes of tofu
toss to coat
add the green onions and sesame seeds and toss together
As with anything fried, it is best to serve this hot and immediately. You would think the sauce would make the tofu cubes instantly soggy, but surprisingly, it doesn’t. Just before serving, I poured a little more of the sauce over the top of the tofu and garnished with more green onions. I liked this home-cooked version better than the restaurant version. The coating on mine was thinner, more delicate. And the home-cooked version of the sauce pours more like a liquid than a thick, gloppy sauce. I consider that an improvement. It made for a terrific lunch.
we enjoyed it with baby bok choy and broccoli
modified from this recipe
14 oz. extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup cornstarch
1-2 tbsps sesame seeds
3-4 green onions, minced
1/3 cup (~4.25 oz.) honey
3 tbsps tamari soy sauce
3 tbsps fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tsps red chili pepper flakes (1 tsp for medium spice, more for spicy)
Wrap the block of tofu in paper towels and set it on a flat plate or cutting board. Place a heavy plate or flat-bottomed bowl on top of the tofu to squeeze the liquid out. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes. While the tofu is being pressed, stir all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer the sauce on low. Unwrap the tofu block and dry it with more paper towels. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Dust the tofu with cornstarch and gently toss to coat the cubes. Heat an inch of vegetable oil in a deep pan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side to measure the temperature of the oil. When the oil reaches 350°F, fry the tofu cubes in batches (I did mine in 2 batches) until light golden in color. Remove the tofu from the oil and set on paper towels to drain. When all of the tofu is fried, place the cubes in a large bowl. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour half to two-thirds of it over the tofu. Toss to coat the tofu. Add the sesame seeds and green onions, and toss to mix with the tofu. Serve immediately with sauce on the side for dipping or pouring over the tofu. Serves 4 as part of a multi-dish meal.