I've pretty much given up on trying to feed my husband tofu. I've snuck it in to our meals periodically over the years, and although he usually eats it without complaint, I know he's wishing there was steak instead. But when he's gone for the night, I relish the opportunity to make dishes like this for myself. I happen to enjoy the inherent texture and taste of tofu, but it's true utility is as a blank canvas for other flavors. Tofu is most successfully used (in my opinion) with vibrant Asian flavors like garlic, ginger, and hot peppers, this dish being a prime example. A bold sauce is created in short order by the simple combination of a few basic Asian ingredients, a beautiful melange of salty, sweet, and spicy flavors that soaks happily into the pan-fried tofu. Furthermore, this sauce has almost infinite utility in quick stir-fries and fried rice, catch-all dishes I make quite often to use up odds and ends of ingredients or simply because I'm in the mood. I find the contrast between the crisp outside and soft center of the fried tofu simply heavenly, but if you're not a fan of tofu, this sauce would be just as delicious over chicken. Accompanied by steamed rice and vegetables (I chose brown rice and sugar snap peas), this well-rounded dinner makes it from the stovetop to the dinner table in a snap, settling even more quickly in the bellies of delighted diners.
Fried Tofu with Spicy Ginger Sauce
adapted from Food and Wine
makes 2 main-course or 4 first-course servings
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
One 14-ounce container firm tofu
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Steamed rice, for serving
1. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce with the sugar, red pepper, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil, ginger and sesame seeds.
2. Slice the tofu crosswise into 8 thin slabs. Dry the tofu with paper towels, pressing until no moisture remains.
3. In a large skillet, heat remaining sesame oil until over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook over , turning once, until browned and crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Spoon the sauce over the fried tofu and sprinkle with the scallions. Serve with steamed rice.