Crunchy Sweet and Spicy Tofu
Ok, so clearly I’ve succumbed to my cravings for anything Asian. When I was young, the very first Chinese dish that I ever ate was sweet and sour pork. If would stay my staple for years to come - both because I liked it a whole lot but also because I simply was not a very adventurous eater. I stuck with what I knew. One of my fondest thought surrounding sweet and sour pork is the juxtaposition of the two flavors. At once opposing and yet a perfect balance. These days, I like my food a bit spicy - but I still like the juxtaposition that comes from having something sweet. So, here is my idea of a dish that’s simultaneously sweet and spicy. I’ve added crunchy tofu to add an additional layer of texture that I find very enjoyable. The dish isn’t very beige - but since it’s served with rice, I think we can let it pass as mostly beige… I serve this with Jasmin rice and if that’s to your liking as well, make a batch while you are working on the main dish. Ingredients: ½ cup + 1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 lb. extra firm tofu, cut into ½ inch thick, 1 inch long strips.
¾ cup corn oil
¾ cup veggie stock
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. ketchup
2 Tbs. light soy sauce
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 tsp, grated fresh ginger
2 large carrots, julienned or cut into thin ribbons
5 scallions, thinly sliced
Let’s get started: Add the ½ cup cornstarch to a medium work bowl. Add the tofu to the cornstarch and toss until all pieces are nicely coated. In a large non-stick pan, heat ½ cup of the corn oil over high heat. Wait until the oil is really hot and carefully add the coated tofu. Try to keep some space between the pieces or they will stick together. Fry until a light golden hue on all sides. I find that longer fry times create a crunchier texture. Remove the tofu from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Set aside. Add a tiny bit of the veggie stock to a small mixing bowl. Now add the remaining 1 Tbs. of cornstarch and mix until smooth.
Add the remaining stock, vinegar, sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, cayenne, and black pepper. Set aside.
Add the remaining ¼ cup of oil to a wok over medium-high heat. Add the carrots - if you are using julienned carrots, let them fry for roughly 30 seconds - and add the scallions. Stir fry the carrots and scallions for one minute. Remove the veggies from the wok and set aside.
Remove enough oil from your wok to leave roughly 1 Tbs. in the wok. Keep the wok on medium high heat.
Add the garlic and ginger and stir immediately. The garlic has a tendency to brown quickly and browned garlic has a bitter undertone.
As soon as you start noticing that the garlic is turning golden, give the veggie stock mixture one more stir and add it to the wok. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Toss the veggies and fried tofu into the sauce, cook for one minute to heat through.
Serve over rice.