Tofu – somewhat unfairly – gets a bit of a bad press. Whenever I’ve posted on Twitter that I’ve just scoffed an alarmingly huge portion of the stuff, I’ve had reactions ranging from “Ewwww! Tofu!” to “If you want me to ever read your blog again, you’ll stop posting recipes which contain this vile product.” My answer to this is simple. a) You’re wrong and b) don’t ever tell me what I can and can’t cook in my own kitchen kthxbye.
Where people slip up with tofu is by treating it as a meat substitute rather than an ingredient in its own right. I may be a fully paid up member of the meat-eating classes, but sometimes there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth in a delicious piece of deep fried tofu- that delicious crust yielding to reveal warm, custardy innards. And Mapo Tofu is the ultimate comfort food for both the ill and the ridiculously hungover.
Which leads us to this recipe for General Tso’s Tofu. I’m not entirely sure who General Tso is, but I know that his chicken is a staple in pretty much every Chinese restaurant across the USA. This is a recipe I’ve made more times than I care to remember, mainly because it’s ridiculously tasty and also because I will crawl over broken glass to get to anything which has been deep fried in chilli oil. The cubes of tofu soak up all of the deliciously savoury-sweet sauce, until they practically burst with a fragrant ginger and garlic flavour. If you’re totally averse to the idea of cooking with tofu, it can easily be subbed for chicken thighs. But, take it from me – you won’t know what you’re missing.
GENERALTSO’S TOFU (Serves Two)
Recipe adapted from “Mastering the art of Chinese cooking” via Serious Eats
You will need:
- 1 large egg
- 280g (or one pack) tofu
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A good grind of black pepper
- 5 to 6 tbsp cornflour divided
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (you can use dry sherry if you can’t find this)
- 1 tsp red chilli oil
- 2 tsp minced garlic (I used garlic paste)
- 1 tbsp peeled and minced ginger
- 2 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 8 small dried red chillies
- 3 spring onions, white parts only, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- Crack the egg into a medium-sized bowl, and lightly beat it with a fork. Add the salt, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the cornflour, and stir until combined. Add the tofu, and toss well. Set mixture aside for 15 minutes. (If you have a rice cooker, you can cook the rice whilst your tofu is doing its business).
- Meanwhile, in a second bowl, combine the soy sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar, Shaoxing rice wine, red chilli oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar. Whisk until smooth.
- After the 15 minutes, pour the oil into a large wok set over high heat. Heat the oil up until it begins to spit slightly. While the oil warms up, place a sheet of baking paper on your countertop and add 3 tablespoons of the cornflour. Add the pieces of tofu on top, and toss until they are completely coated. Add an additional tablespoon of cornflour if needed.
- When the oil is ready, shake off any excess cornflour on the tofu, and carefully add them to the wok. Cook, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, for two-three minutes until the outside of the tofu becomes brown and crispy. Turn off the heat, remove tofu pieces with the slotted spoon, and drain on some paper towels.
- Remove all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil. Turn the heat to high, and when the oil is just starting to smoke, add the dried chillies, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the spring onions, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tofu pieces back to the wok, and toss constantly for a minute until the pieces are coated in the chilli and spring onion oil. Pour in the sauce, and stir-fry for a minute and a half until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Turn off the heat.
- Serve immediately with rice.