Please do not skip over this one if you’re “not a tofu person.” That was me for the longest time! The key to my conversion was perfecting crispy tofu. And by crispy, I mean a lot of things: I can get a good golden-brown edge on my tofu when I toss 1/2-inch cubes in soy sauce, cornstarch, and oil and bake at 425° for 20 minutes. Or even from a good pan-sear if there’s a hot pan and enough oil. But the holy grail of crispy tofu, for my kids at least, is golden-fried, like you see here in Hsiao-Ching Chou’s simple Seared Tofu with Baby Bok Choy, which calls for dredging the soy-sauce-drizzled tofu in corn starch before frying. This method is not new to me (or probably you) but I realized something that I probably should’ve realized a long time ago: The cut of the tofu makes a big difference when you’re dredging. For starters, I’d do anything to minimize touching squeaky-dry corn starch (insert shivering gif here) so the larger the piece, the fewer the pieces to dredge. Next the size of Hsiao-Ching’s triangle cut is just right — large enough to minimize the dredge work, but small enough to still maintain its crispy-chewiness when cooked.
Anyway, I loved the recipe (which also went out in Monday’s newsletter) and there are many many more where it came from in Hsiao-Ching’s new book, Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food. Please consider checking it out.
Seared Tofu with Baby Bok Choy
From Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food, by Hsiao-Ching Chou
Note from Hsiao-Ching Chou: While I use baby bok choy in this recipe, you can opt for your choice of greens, such as gai lan, yu choy, spinach, or Chinese cabbage.
About 7 ounces medium or firm tofu (half a standard block), cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices, then each square cut in half diagonally to create triangles
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1⁄3 cup cornstarch, for dredging
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 cups sliced baby bok choy, about 1⁄2 inch thick
1⁄2 cup brown beech mushrooms or enoki mushrooms (Note from Jenny: I used cremini because that’s what I had)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1⁄2 cup water
1⁄4 teaspoon sesame oil
Place the tofu in a shallow dish and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce over the pieces. Carefully turn the tofu a few times to coat with the soy sauce. Put the cornstarch in another shallow dish or plate. Dredge the tofu with the cornstarch, making sure the tofu pieces are evenly coated. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over medium-low heat for about 1 minute. Place the tofu in the skillet, placing as many as will fit in the pan without overcrowding. Sear 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until richly browned. Place the tofu on a clean plate. Repeat with any remaining tofu. Set aside.
Preheat a wok over high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the bok choy and stir for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Stir for a few seconds to combine. Add the water and stir to combine. Add the tofu and the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, stirring carefully to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Finish with sesame oil.
Reprinted with permission. Photo credit: Clare Barboza
Subscribe to my substack to get all my recipes and updates delivered straight to your inbox.