I had a huge triumph today. I finally successfully made tofu. I’ve tried cooking with tofu in the past and could never really get it to be the right flavor or texture. When I cooked it in a skillet it would fall apart, when I baked it in the oven it would be bland and lifeless. Today, though, today was 100% success! This Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli had texture, it had flavor, and none of that bland mushiness that I’ve always ended up with in the past!
Use Cornstarch for Crispy Tofu
I was almost to the point where I believed that I’d never get tofu right, but I got inspired the other day and started looking up tutorials. I found this tutorial on How to Make Crispy Tofu without Deep-Frying over at TheKitchn.com and decided to give it a try.
The technique involves pressing out excess liquid, seasoning with salt (or marinating), coating with cornstarch, and then shallow pan frying until golden and crispy all over. I really wasn’t prepared for just how nice and crispy the tofu would turn out. It was simply amazing. Just as good as deep-fried (IMHO)!!
Now that I know how to do this, I can’t wait to experiment with more flavors. I seasoned this tofu with just a pinch of salt, knowing that I was about to drench it in yummy sesame sauce, but I still couldn’t stop popping the naked cubes into my mouth. They were so good even on their own! I can only imagine how good they’ll be with other flavors. Stay tuned because that is definitely going to be happening in my kitchen in the near future.
Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli
- 14 oz block extra-firm tofu ($1.99)
- Pinch of salt ($0.02)
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch ($0.08)
- 2 Tbsp neutral oil (vegetable, canola, peanut) ($0.04)
- 1/2 lb frozen broccoli florets ($1.00)
- 3-4 green onions, sliced ($0.23)
- 4 cups cooked rice ($0.88)
- Place a few folded paper towels or a clean, lint-free dish cloth on a large plate. Remove the tofu from the package and place it on the towels. Place more towels on top, cover with a second plate, and then weigh the top plate down with a few canned goods or a pot filled with water. Press the tofu for at least 30 minutes to extract excess water (refrigerate if pressing for longer).
- While the tofu is pressing, prepare the sauce so that the flavors have time to blend. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, brown sugar, rice vinegar, grated ginger, minced garlic, sesame seeds, and cornstarch. Stir until the brown sugar and cornstarch are dissolved, then set the sauce aside.
- Cut the pressed tofu into 1-inch cubes, then season with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp cornstarch over the cubes, then toss to coat. Repeat with the second tablespoon of cornstarch, or until the tofu cubes have a nice even coating of cornstarch.
- Heat a large skillet over medium flame. Once hot, add 2 Tbsp oil and tilt the skillet until the bottom is coated in a thick layer of oil. Add the dusted tofu cubes and let cook until golden brown on the bottom. Use a spatula to turn the cubes to an uncooked side, and cook until golden brown again. Continue this process until brown and crispy on all sides, then remove the crispy tofu to a clean plate.
- Add the frozen broccoli to the hot skillet and briefly stir fry until slightly browned on the edges. Don’t worry if it’s not thawed through yet, it will warm through after adding the sauce. Lower the heat to medium-low.
- Give the bowl of sauce a good stir, then pour it into the skillet with the broccoli. Stir and cook until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken (this should happen very quickly). Once thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the cooked tofu cubes.
- Serve the tofu and broccoli over a bed of cooked rice, topped with sliced green onions.
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How to Make Sesame Tofu – Step by Step Photos
Start with a 14oz. package of extra-firm tofu. Yes, I realize this photo is of just “firm” tofu. I was so starry-eyed by the sale sign that I accidentally bought firm instead of extra-firm. Good news is that the only difference is the amount of moisture, so I just pressed my tofu for extra time. Read more about the different tofu varieties here.
Take the block of tofu out of its water filled package. Place some folded up paper towels or clean, lint-free dish towels on a large plate. Place the tofu on the towels, then cover with another set of towels and another plate. Place something heavy on top, like canned goods or a pot with water (a pot with water can be tricky to balance). If you use harsh detergents to wash your dish towels, paper towels might be a better idea. Let the tofu press for about 30 minutes for extra-firm tofu. I had just firm tofu, so I let it go for an hour. If you let it press for extended time, just be sure to put it in the refrigerator. Some people let theirs press all day, it just depends on the texture that you like.
While the tofu is being pressed, prepare the sauce so the flavors have a little time to mingle. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, and 1 Tbsp cornstarch. Set the sauce aside.
Once the tofu is pressed, cut it into one-inch cubes. If you still feel quite a bit of moisture on the surface, dab it a bit with a dry paper towel. Reducing the surface moisture is part of what helps these little guys get crispy. Season the cubes with a pinch of salt.
Sprinkle 1 Tbsp cornstarch over the cubes, then toss the cubes to coat. Repeat with a second tablespoon of cornstarch, or until the cubes have a decent coating on all sides.
Heat a large skillet over medium flame. Once the surface is hot, add 2 Tbsp of any neutral oil (this can be canola, vegetable, peanut, untoasted sesame oil, etc.) Tilt the skillet to cover the surface of the skillet, then add the cornstarch dusted tofu cubes. Let them cook until golden brown on the bottom. (P.S. waiting until the skillet is hot before adding the oil really helps prevent the cubes from sticking. Using a non-stick skillet or cast iron will also help prevent them from sticking).
Once they’re golden on the bottom, use a spatula to turn them to a new side. Continue cooking…
Keep repeating the process until they’re golden brown on all sides. They should be CRISPY and pretty darn wonderful. Once crispy on all sides, remove them to a clean plate (I just reused one of the plates from pressing).
Add the frozen broccoli right to the skillet, no need to thaw. There should still be some oil in the skillet, too. The tofu absorbed some, but not all of the oil.
Stir fry the broccoli just for a couple of minutes, or until it gets a touch of brown on the edges. Turn the heat down to medium-low (it’s okay if the broccoli is not thawed through at this point, it will continue to cook with the sauce).
Give the bowl of sauce a good stir just before pouring it into the hot skillet. Stir and cook the sauce until it begins to bubble and thicken (this should happen fairly quickly).
Once the sauce is thick and glossy, add the cooked tofu back to the skillet.
Stir to coat the tofu in the sauce.
Spoon the Pan Fried Sesame Tofu and Broccoli over a bed of cooked rice, then top with sliced green onion. NOM.
Seriously, these little crispy tofu bites were so good I could eat the whole lot, sans-sauce. I’m a tofu convert.