photo by Kim Sunée
I don’t cook tofu very often, but when I do, I prefer it with bold flavors and sometimes crisped up around the edges. The key to crunchy-edged tofu is to make sure and remove as much moisture as possible. Even the most firm tofu carries extra water weight. Most of the time needed for this recipe is for draining and pressing the tofu. But from there, it’s a simple toss with spices, and a bit of cornstarch (you can use arrowroot or potato starch or rice flour), which helps with moisture and to render crispy edges.
As to the heat level, you can modify using your favorite pastes or sauce. Garlicky, chili crunch pairs perfectly with tofu. I’m currently addicted to the Sichuan chili crisp from Fly by Jing and Momofuku’s chili crunch. While the tofu is getting nice and golden in the oven, cook some rice or noodles and chop up some vegetables and maybe do a quick pickle of cucumbers or carrots.
What to do with all this crispy spicy tofu? Eat it like hot fries dipped in a sauce. Top soups, noodles, or rice bowls. Pile onto bread with pickled vegetables for a plant-focused bánh mì sandwich. Serve in lettuce cups or fold into an omelet, maybe even add as a pizza topping.
- 1 (14-to-16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, preferably organic
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, cider vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili crisp, garlic-chili crunch, harissa, gochujang, or Sriracha
- 1 to 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon hot Madras curry powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sugar or honey (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder (or rice flour or potato starch)
- Garnishes: thinly-sliced green onion; sesame oil
- Serving suggestions: cooked buckwheat noodles; cooked rice; pickled vegetables; roasted vegetables; bok choy or cabbage; roasted seaweed; kimchi or sauerkraut
- Drain tofu and slice into three slabs. Place several layers of paper towel or a clean kitchen towel on kitchen counter or on rimmed baking sheet. Add tofu in a single layer, side by side. Add another few layers of paper or kitchen towels. Place a cutting board on top of the towels and place a few heavy cans or a heavy skillet to press and drain the tofu, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Remove towels and slice each slab of tofu into bite-sized cubes (or triangles).
- Heat oven to 400°. Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, chili crisp/hot sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and, if using, add curry powder and sugar. Use dry paper towels or a kitchen towel and pat dry the tofu pieces once more. Add tofu and gently turn in the sauce to coat all sides. A silicone spatula works well as it’s gentle enough to not break the tofu. Sprinkle over tofu 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (or rice flour, potato starch, or arrowroot) and mix well to coat tofu all over. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch and toss just to incorporate. Note: If you added more sauce/liquid, add up to one more teaspoon of cornstarch to absorb most of the liquid.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick mat. Add tofu to baking sheet and arrange pieces so they are not touching. Bake tofu, turning tofu pieces over every 10 minutes to ensure even crisping, for 30 to 35 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Remove pan from oven and allow tofu to sit a few minutes to continue crisping. Garnish, if desired, with green onion and sesame oil. See serving suggestions above.