Did I promise or did I promise?
I promised. A few times, granted, but – hey! Now I deliver.
We got veggies, we got bean curd, we got sauces and seasonings and some vague instructions from yours (always) truly. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s that you absolutely do – anyone can make a stir fry. I’ve got your back for the new bits though, don’t worry.
See all that produce up there? Most of the deal here is hacking it up and shoving it round a hot pan for a bit. No kidding. I can tell a few of you at the back are here about the soy component, though. In fact, maybe quite a few of you are a bit scared of/stumped by tofu.
I make this promise to the uninitiated, the sceptic, the jaded and the disappointed: this is by far the tastiest format in which I have ever consumed tofu. It has a crunchy, slightly savoury coating and a silky smooth centre, and it stomps all over the rubbery, flavourless stuff found in some dishes or the greasy, twisted blobs that have been deep-fried beyond recognition in others. This is so easy and so quick to make – in fact, the most time-consuming part is squeezing the liquid out of the tofu before cutting it into chunks.
To get the best behaviour out of the tofu, it’s best to get the excess water out of it before dredging and frying. You can do this by putting the block between layers of kitchen towel, then between two plates, with the top one weighted down by tins of soup or any other heavy object you might have to hand.
You could also put the block of tofu in a sieve or colander over the sink, then cover with kitchen towel, a plate and weight. Up to you, the result is the same. Either way, leave your pressed tofu to do its thing for about an hour.
At this point, if you’re me, you might glare accusingly at the weighted tofu and hiss, “Confess, confess!”…
If you’re not me, you could just get on with prepping the vegetables for the stir fry.
I’m not here to boss you about how to chop your veggies – just go for it, my little grasshoppers. Many years ago, I had a couple of Thai flatmates who would watch me prepare my dinner with utter fascination, bewildered beyond belief by how small I chopped the vegetables. I was, in turn, bewildered by how my preparation of my ingredients for my meal could be an issue for anyone else, but there you go (it may have been a chopsticks vs fork thing). Anyway, I say unto you: go big, go small, spiralise the whole lot if that’s how you roll…
As it happens, I’m not crazy about hacking away at squash and (don’t ask, because I don’t know) I get bored chopping courgettes (I. don’t. know.) so I am very happy that a new fad for making things that aren’t pasta look like pasta has hit the veggie section of a few major grocery shops, and courgettes and butternut squash are two of its hapless victims.
Once your vegetables are dealt with and you’ve got your carb of choice sorted (I rotate between rice, threadlike rice noodles and big, fat udon noodles – on this occasion I went with brown rice, cooked and ready to go), you can get the coating ready for the tofu.
You could just use plain cornflour for this, I certainly have, but I spotted this seasoning in the shop recently and, while I had been using it to sprinkle on finished dishes, it occurred to me that it would be perfect for addling a bit of zing to this crispy coating. (Note: this seasoning isn’t vegan or vegetarian – which this recipe is, without it – as it has sardine in it, apparently, but the same brand does an umami paste that is vegetarian, and this could stirred in with the cooked veggies, if you’re curious about the taste.) Mixing in a bit of salt and black pepper is another seasoning concept.
Dredge the tofu in the cornflour mix to coat on all sides – you can do this a couple of times, which will make for a crispier outside. You’ll notice that the tofu absorbs the cornflour quite quickly, but don’t worry, it hasn’t disappeared, and will still have a golden crust after frying.
Speaking of flatmates, I had another one with a penchant for covering every inch of our tiny, rented kitchen with grease splatter (and destroying my roasting pan by burning a whole fish onto it, and breaking a few of my dark blue wine glasses…), leaving me with a desire to avoid shallow-frying in my cooking if at all possible. I therefore approached the frying of this tofu in a sideways sort of manner, and I’m happy to report that my approach was a success.
Instead of covering the bottom of the (non-stick) skillet with a layer of oil, I poured in a generous glug, which I swirled gently in and around the tofu as it fried, the coating absorbing it and crisping and colouring nicely without getting soggy. And zero splatter to clean up afterwards.
When the tofu was done, I tipped out the remaining hot oil into the wok I was heating to cook the vegetables.
The veggies don’t take long to stir fry, and you can add the rice or noodles to them when they’ve got two or three minutes to go, adding a dash of soy sauce to stir through and flavour the whole thing.
To serve, pile a bowl or plate with as much stir fry as you like and top with the crispy tofu (the coating will go soggy if you add it in to the veggie mix) and top with more soy sauce, a dash of sweet chilli dipping sauce, a sprinkle of black sesame seeds or anything else you’re in the mood for.
For what it’s worth, I give you -> My Recipe <- for this, which really is more guidance than strict instruction; quantities, veg variety, sauces and seasonings are yours to decide, swap or leave out. Call me lazy, call me liberating… Actually, don’t call me, I don’t like telephones (or chopping courgettes, yes, are you making a list or what?).
Tip: Any leftover uncut tofu can be stored in an airtight container, either in water or covered with a damp kitchen towel, in the fridge until you next want to cut off, coat and fry a few cubes. After cooking the coating doesn’t keep well, as it will go soggy, so best to dredge and fry as needed.
Sooo, next time. At the moment I’ve no idea what to tease you with. I will say I have a doughnut pan en route to me in the post… Then again I’ve also been idly thumbing some no-churn ice cream recipes and some Mexican-inspired dishes. I guess until next time I’ll just have to tease you with ALL of that.
I can almost imagine something called a Mexican ice cream doughnut, but let’s leave that one in my imagination. For now.