Crispy Tofu With Napa Cabbage
Crispy tofu with Napa cabbage slaw is a tried and true family favorite. Dredging the tofu in cornmeal and cornstarch, before lightly pan frying, creates a crunchy exterior with a soft, pillowy texture inside. This is not my recipe, it’s from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I have adapted this recipe a little over the years, but it’s a winner either way. (Note: Unfortunately, at this time, there is no online link to the original recipe).
What is Tofu?
Tofu is made by curdling fresh soy milk, pressing it into a solid block, and then cooling it, in much the same way that traditional dairy cheese is made by curdling and solidifying milk. It is naturally gluten-free and low in calories. Another bonus, tofu has no cholesterol and is an excellent source of both iron and calcium.
I have always been a big tofu fan, as have my boys. Tofu was a favorite of their bento-style lunches I packed for them in grade school. What I love most about tofu is its versatility, from sweet to savory, it is a wonderful ingredient to work with. A good, flavorful marinade or sauce is what any great tofu dish needs to make it delicious. Asian flavors such as sesame oil and oyster sauce tie the crispy tofu and the raw cabbage together brilliantly in this flavorful dish.
Do You Have To Press Your Tofu?
Many crispy tofu recipes, including this one, don’t require formal tofu pressing. But depending on the size of the tofu or the method of cooking, it may actually help. Pressing is often the best way to remove excess moisture. Pressing can help create firmer tofu that better holds its shape during cooking. Instead of pressing, I drain the tofu. First, in block form, for about 20 minutes. And second, sliced on paper towel-lined baking sheets prior to cooking it. This is a great prep-ahead technique. I drain and slice the tofu in the morning or early afternoon and refrigerate it. Later, when I’m ready to cook it, the tofu has drained naturally and is ready to go.
How to Prevent Sticking
Stainless steel and tofu do not work well together and often cause sticking. When making this crispy tofu I use a large, well-seasoned cast iron. Alternatively, people get nervous about pan frying in a non-stick pan and get concerned about the pan withstanding high heat. But the truth is, a non-stick pan can take it, so this works just as well as a cast iron pan.
The real trick when you pan-fry something is only using enough oil to swirl around and coat the pan. Deep frying would mean you need to completely submerge the tofu in oil and you are not doing that here. Also important to prevent sticking–don’t flip it too soon! Let the tofu sit and sear to get crispy. People often flip food before it’s ready. It takes longer than one expects to get food crispy.
So, if you’re a tofu lover already this crispy tofu dish is probably a no-brainer and thanks to the cabbage slaw, it actually falls into the healthy-ish and quick meal categories which is a double bonus. And if you’re new to tofu, I hope you give this simple little recipe a whirl, you may just fall in love.