We last wrote about growing spring onions at home; one of our fave ways to use them is in a savoury soy dressing on pan-seared tofu.
Tofu seems to sit pretty high on the Foods People Love to Hate list. Is it because of the associations with tofu toters who come across as holier-than-thou types overselling a bland food? Is it thanks to traumatic memories of being duped into eating tofu unawares, lumps of it hidden in some normally-meat dish where it only evoked pure weirdness?
Dear Poor Old Tofu, we’re here to show off how awesome you can be.
When it’s done right, tofu truly can be delicious – no joke – as well as versatile and cheap compared to meat.
The key is to understand: 1) That tofu is a base food – it can be bland on its own but is great with some strong flavours around it; and 2) Which texture of tofu to use.
This pan-seared tofu relies on a fragrant sesame soy dressing and a crisp golden skin to make extra firm (or hard) tofu tasty.
This is also a weeknight go-to for us. It’s easy, uses basic kitchen tools, and is ready in 30min or less.
Schtuff I learned along the way
Extra Firm (or Hard) tofu is best for pan-searing, but Firm tofu will also work.
Patting the tofu dry –> fewer oil spatters.
Always make sure the oil in the pan is hot before adding the tofu – the tofu will stick less and be less oily.
Pan-Seared Tofu with Sesame Soy Dressing recipe
Serves 2-3 with sides
This is best served with rice and veggies.
Where there’s a difference, I list both US | Australian measurements:
- 16oz pack of Extra Firm tofu | 450g
- 4-6 sprigs green onions | spring onions
- 1 US tablespoon all-purpose soy sauce | 3 Australian teaspoons
- 2 US tablespoons sesame oil | 1 1/2 Australian tablespoons
- Cooking oil
Step 1. Drain the tofu and rinse briefly. Pat dry. Slice the tofu into pieces that are roughly 1.5″ | 4cm thick, and up to 3″ | 8cm in length or width.
Step 2. Wash and dice the green onions | spring onions. Set aside in a heatproof sauce bowl.
Step 3. Add enough cooking oil to generously coat the bottom of a skillet. Heat the skillet on medium-high heat.
Step 4. When the oil is hot (a corner of the tofu dipped in sizzles immediately), carefully place the tofu pieces flat-side down into the skillet (the oil might spit). Cook until a crispy golden-brown skin forms on the bottom, about 5-10 minutes; flip the tofu and cook until the flip side is also golden-brown. If you can be bothered/have extra time, you can sear all sides of the tofu, like this faffer-rounder did. During cooking, jiggle the skillet occasionally to prevent sticking.
Step 5. Turn the heat down to medium. Gently move the pan-seared tofu onto serving plates and keep warm.
Step 6. Heat the soy sauce and sesame oil in the same skillet (on medium heat), until the soy sauce just starts to simmer. Pour the hot sesame soy sauce over the diced spring onions. Spoon the dressing over the tofu just before serving on rice.
#1 No-flip oven-roast
For minimum effort, roast the tofu on an oiled tray on a middle rack at 400F | 200C, until lightly golden. This saves effort standing at a stove flipping tofu, but the results aren’t as good – my tofu came out a bit dry and without the crisp outside.
#2 Chunky golden cubes
Instead of slicing the tofu horizontally into my usual 1.5″- | 4cm- thick pieces, I made chunky cubes by slicing only vertically.
I also seared all sides until they were a deep gold. These took longer to cook – about 45min instead of 30min – and needed more oil during cooking, but how delicious do they look! They didn’t taste terrible either :p
#3 Different sauces
I think of pan-seared tofu as a basic recipe that can be changed up with different East Asian sauces (black bean, chilli & garlic, XO sauce all come to mind). These can be bought readymade in supermarkets and Asian groceries.
However, I’d steer clear of acidic (citrus, vinegar etc) sauces; tangy doesn’t play nice with this type of tofu.
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