Crispy Tofu with Ginger and…Whatever


I’m beginning to think that my kids are never going to warm up to tofu. Though I guess I can’t blame them considering that I never served it until relatively recently…and also because I never really ate it myself, unless a little silky white cube in my miso soup accidentally slipped onto my spoon. In the last few years, though, we’ve developed a tasty, if decidedly Asian-leaning little repertoire — the miso-butter tofu, the sweet and sour tofu — and now, thanks to Melissa Clark’s new book DINNER, this crispy tofu with ginger you are looking at above. (In last week’s Times round-up, I wrote extensively about how excellent the book is so please head over there if you want more details.) Anyway, I’m typing this at 10:00 am on a Tuesday morning and I swear I could eat every last bite of that tofu right this second. It’s unthinkable to me that someone can sit down at a dinner table, look at the glistening golden cubes tossed with whatever is fresh, and not want to do the same.

{Note to parents of younger kids: Start the tofu indoctrination as early as you can.}

About that “toss with whatever fresh” part. That’s not exactly in the recipe. Technically the book calls for the tofu to be dredged in corn starch, fried in grapeseed oil, removed, then added back with a bunch of aromatics, a molasses-soy sauce mixture and a handful of swiss chard or bok choy. The problem is, every time I’ve craved this recipe, there hasn’t been any chard or bok choy in my house. (That will change, of course, once my garden explodes.) Usually, though, there is kale. Or spinach. Last week there were haricots verts. So I used those. It’s what I love about this cookbook. Clark gives you the inspiration, and you can follow her instructions to a T if you’d like and the result will be perfect. But even if you let her recipes give you just a basic framework, you’ll end up learning a new technique or rethinking what qualifies as dinner or finally dipping into the the tub of doenjung (Korean fermented soybean paste) you bought (beer-goggled) at H Mart over the winter. Of all the books I tested this spring, Clark’s was the one that edged its way into the easy-to-reach corner of the cookbook shelf. I’ve had success with her Mexican Tortilla Soup, Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Ricotta & Olives, Halloumi and Brussels Sprouts, Korean-style Stir-fried Beef, Pasta with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs….I can just tell the book is gonna get a lot of play. And so will this recipe. As soon as my kids head to sleep away camp.


Crispy Tofu with Ginger and Spicy Greens

From Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark (reprinted with permission)
Serves 2 or 3; Time: 35 minutes
Note that this serves 2 or 3, which works for our family of tofu-thropes, but probably not for yours — stretch it out by serving with brown rice and extra vegetables. Also, I’ve used red pepper flakes when I didn’t have serranos (or red hot chiles) and the sun still rose in the morning.

Grapeseed or safflower oil, as needed
1 package (14 to 16 ounces) firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup cornstarch
Fine sea salt to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 small shallots, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
1½ tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 green serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1 fresh hot red chile, seeded and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound bok choy or Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and thinly sliced
8 small scallions (white and green parts), cut into 1¼-inch lengths

1. Heat ¼ inch of grapeseed oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. In a bowl, toss the tofu with the cornstarch until well coated. Fry the tofu in the hot oil until it is browned and crisped, about 5 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
2. Pour off the oil from the skillet and return the skillet to medium heat. Add the butter, and when it has melted, add the shallots, garlic, ginger, and chiles. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes.
3. While the shallots are cooking, whisk the soy sauce, molasses, and black pepper together in a small bowl.
4. Stir the soy sauce mixture into the skillet, along with the sliced bok choy stems and the scallions. Cook until the stems are almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves and stir until they are just wilted. Then stir in the tofu, and serve hot.

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20 Comments

Libby

Love this cookbook. The seared sausage and rhubarb with Swiss chard convinced my greens-phobic boys to eat (and claim they liked!) chard. We also loved the Cuban flank steak with mango, the roasted poblano quesadillas, and the Vietnamese style skirt steak. I’m trying to work up enough courage to try serving tofu.

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Marguerite Miller Johnson

Been making a version of this (from your other post-basically same with rice wine vinegar, soy, ginger and garlic) and my kids love it! My 5 year old just said he wants it for his birthday dinner–high praise!

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Scheherazade

I love this book so much that I bought a copy for my sister as well. Now we exchange texts just referring to page numbers “I cooked pg 26 last night. Soooo good!” We’ve already adapted the tuna nicoise to make it our own but everything has been a winner as written.

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Dana

Can’t wait to try this recipe! If you’re interested in making another pass at converting your kids into tofu-fanatics, the best tofu-based meal I’ve ever had, and that has converted many skeptical friends into tofu-appreciators, is a simple recipe a childhood friend’s mom made regularly: slice tofu into 1 inch-ish strips (or ‘steaks,’ as the old school vegetarian community would say), dip each in a mixture of 1 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon ginger powder, then lay the thick strips on a jellyroll pan which has had its bottom covered with 1 part soy sauce and 2 parts olive oil. Flip the strips so both sides are coated in the oil and soy sauce mixture, then bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with basmati rice and freshly cracked black pepper! It gets crispy and delicious and has a flavor unlike any other tofu recipe I’ve ever tried — and I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 years!

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Carol

I got this book from my library and quickly realized that that there were way too many recipies I wanted to try……….so I bought a copy for myself.

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Elizabeth

I recently bought the cookbook after giving a library copy trial run; each recipe I’ve tried has been excellent. Thanks for the great recommendation! I can’t wait to cook my way through it.

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Elizabeth

I recently bought the cookbook after giving a library copy a trial run; each recipe I’ve tried has been excellent. Thanks for the great recommendation! I can’t wait to cook my way through it.

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meghan

We make your tofu recipe from “Dinner: The Playbook” so often that it has been renamed “Son’s Tofu” in our house. Started early as you suggested – at age 3 he could “paint” the strips with the sauce.

Only problem is that Son #2 doesn’t like it for some mysterious reason, but will eat it with TJ’s Soyaki, so we now make 1/2 and 1/2 batches. (I prefer your recipe for what it’s worth!)

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Erika

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this cookbook and have been cooking from it almost exclusively for a month!

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Leigh

I gave tofu to my kids as babies. It was a good easy first food. The love it. A simple way I make it for them now is to make a quick sauce with soy sauce, dashi, sesame oil and a little honey. They can’t get enough of it.

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Awads

My family loves that butter miso tofu recipe. the leftovers (if you have any) make mind-blowing cold sandwiches! in fact, i’m thinking of making a big batch over the weekend to eat all week. My son didn’t really start eating tofu until recently (he’s 9). I think it’s because, as a committed omnivore, i had no good tofu recipes. Thanks to DALS, i’m flush with them! Meatless Monday lives.

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S

We found the “dredge tofu in cornstarch and fry” recipe in the Food 52 Genius Recipes cookbook and it has been a game changer. For a real treat, we sometimes thinly slice mushrooms along with the tofu and toss it all in the corn starch for crispy mushrooms and tofu together! Excited to try this recipe, the sauce looks simple and delicious!

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Kim

I made this for dinner last night and it got my son to eat tofu for the first time. I was a vegetarian for 16 years and for some reason it never occurred to me to dredge the tofu in cornstarch before frying. This is a gamechanger. Really a good recipe.

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laura

So I made this last night, and the cornstarch turned into a gummy mess that fell off the tofu and stuck to the bottom of the pan, making frying difficult. In the end we were eating tofu along with separated crunchy cornstarch lumps in our meal :/ I see several people do this successfully above me in the comments — what did I do wrong?

The other flavors were great!

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Jenny

Oh no, Laura. So sorry to hear this. Was there enough oil in the pan? Was the cornstarch sticking to the tofu before you added to pan? How did you dredge it? Usually I shake the cubes in a plastic bag with the cornstarch for even distribution.

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Marguerite Miller Johnson

Laura-I have had that happen too, but made these changes and success! Dry the tofu very well with paper towels and something weighting it down, then add corn starch in bag and shake off extra, put enough oil in the pan and get it hot before you add tofu and don’t overcrowd pan, let is cook until it is not sticking and then flip/turn each piece (like searing meat!). It is sort of time consuming, but totally worth it! Good luck!

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Jordan

The Mongolian tofu recipe that you linked to in your Tofu Multiple Choice post from waaay back in 2013 is one of my weeknight go-to’s!

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Amy

I made this last week with bok choy and it was great. Everything that I have made from this book is great, including some of the other tofu recipes

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Vegan Heaven

This looks SO delicious, Jenny! I used to hate tofu. When I first tried it I didn’t get how people could actually like it. Mostly because I didn’t know how to prepare it at that time. But then I tried a couple of different recipes and I soon started to absolutely love it! This meatless lasagna is one of my favorite tofu recipes: https://veganheaven.org/recipe/meatless-lasagna-vegan/ I’m saving this recipe for next weekend and checking out the cookbook! 🙂

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