Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fried Tofu with Spicy Ginger Sauce

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.

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