The Secret to Crispy Tofu and Vegetable Lo Mein with Crispy Tofu

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One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I get my tofu so crispy. No, you don’t have to deep-fry it to get it that way. No cuisine needs crispy tofu as much as Chinese food does and since it’s Chinese New Year for the next 2 weeks, I thought I’d share my tips on how to make it.

Last night we had Vegetable Lo Mein with Crispy Tofu. It was the perfect comforting way to celebrate Chinese New Year on one of the coldest nights of the year.

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So how do you get super-crispy tofu?

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First, start with a good brand of tofu. Last night I used Nasoya Extra-Firm Tofu. In my opinion, the two best brands are Nasoya and Woodstock Foods. Trader Joes makes a good tofu but since I don’t have a TJ near me, I stick to Nasoya and Woodstock Foods.

Of course you want to press it and drain it. You can even freeze it and then thaw it, press and drain it. It will get even chewier. But here’s one of my secrets: I didn’t freeze it and I didn’t press it very much. The reasoning is that since I was going to cook it until it was super-crisp, I didn’t want the tofu to get dry and overcooked. So I pressed the block just enough to get the excess water out but the tofu was still a bit fragile.

I then cut the tofu into cubes and put them in a bowl. They get tossed with a few tablespoons of arrowroot powder. You can also use cornstarch or just plain, old flour. They also get tossed with spices. Never miss an opportunity to add flavor to your tofu. I used garlic powder, ground ginger, paprika, salt and pepper. No need to marinate it.

The tofu gets pan-fried in about one inch of hot oil. Be patient and let it cook. Don’t touch it. When you can see that the bottoms are brown, flip it. Then let it cook and keep flipping it until all the tofu is golden brown on all sides. Let it get very crispy. Since I didn’t press it very much and the tofu still has some moisture inside it, it will be crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. Perfect! Make sure to transfer the tofu to a paper towel-lined bowl so the excess oil gets absorbed. Instead of sprinkling salt on the finished tofu, I sprinkled 5-spice powder for added flavor.

The hardest part of making crispy tofu is setting it aside and not munching on it while making the veggie lo mein. 🙂

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Lo mein is a great dish because you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Last night it was carrots, celery, onions, broccoli and green beans. I make just enough sauce to coat the veggies and noodles but not so much that they swim in sauce. If you like more sauce, double the amounts I used.

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I hope these tips help you celebrate Chinese New Year with your crispiest tofu ever. Enjoy!

Vegetable Lo Mein with Crispy Tofu

GF

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For the crispy tofu:­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained

3 Tbs. arrowroot powder or cornstarch

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. paprika

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

5-Spice Powder

Vegetable oil, for frying

 

For the sauce:­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth

1/4 cup gluten-free tamari

2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar

1 Tbs. agave nectar

2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. garlic powder

 

For the Vegetable Lo Mein­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­:

1 lb. brown rice noodles

1 Tbs. peanut or canola oil

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, shredded

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large head broccoli, chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

½ lb. green beans, chopped

2 tsp. arrowroot powder + 2 Tbs. water
Fill a large pot with water to boil for the noodles. Note: you are going to reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce later.

Cut the block of tofu into cubes. Toss the cubes in a shallow bowl with the arrowroot powder and the spices except the 5-spice powder. Heat about 1-inch of oil in a deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook until browned on all sides, flipping often, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl and sprinkle with 5-spice powder.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce together in a mug or bowl. Set aside. When the water is boiling, add a handful of salt to the pot and put the noodles in. Stir them. If you are using gluten-free noodles, they take longer to cook, about 15 minutes or so.

When the noodles are 3/4 of the way done, start on the vegetables. You don’t want to cook them too early or else they will lose their color and crunch.

In the same pan you cooked the tofu in, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and ginger. Don’t let them burn. Add the scallions and the onions and cook for one minute before adding the carrots and celery. Cook for another minute or two, stirring the vegetables constantly. Add the broccoli and the bell pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Add the green beans and cook another 2 minutes.

When the vegetables are bright green and crisp-tender, add the sauce to the pot and toss to coat all the veggies in it. If you need more liquid, add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid. In a mug, mix 2 tsp. of arrowroot with 2 Tbs. water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the vegetables to thicken and glaze the sauce.

When the noodles are al dente, drain them and add them to the vegetables. Mix the noodles well with the vegetables and toss to coat them in sauce. Add the crispy tofu back into the pan and toss with the veggies and noodles. Serve hot.

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The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.

 

Vegetable Lo Mein with Crispy Tofu
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Chinese
 
Ingredients
  • For the crispy tofu
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
  • 2 Tbs. arrowroot powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 5-Spice Powder
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • For the sauce
  • ¼ cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup gluten-free tamari
  • 2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. agave nectar
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • For the Vegetable Lo Mein
  • 1 lb. brown rice noodles
  • 1 Tbs. peanut or canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large head broccoli, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ lb. green beans, chopped
  • 2 tsp. arrowroot powder
Instructions
  1. Fill a large pot with water to boil for the noodles. Note: you are going to reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce later.
  2. Cut the block of tofu into cubes. Toss the cubes in a shallow bowl with the arrowroot powder and the spices except the 5-spice powder. Heat about 1-inch of oil in a deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook until browned on all sides, flipping often, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl and sprinkle with 5-spice powder.
  3. Mix the ingredients for the sauce together in a mug or bowl. Set aside. When the water is boiling, add a handful of salt to the pot and put the noodles in. Stir them. If you are using gluten-free noodles, they take longer to cook, about 15 minutes or so.
  4. When the noodles are ¾ of the way done, start on the vegetables. You don't want to cook them too early or else they will lose their color and crunch.
  5. In the same pan you cooked the tofu in, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and ginger. Don't let them burn. Add the scallions and the onions and cook for one minute before adding the carrots and celery. Cook for another minute or two, stirring the vegetables constantly. Add the broccoli and the bell pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Add the green beans and cook another 2 minutes.
  6. When the vegetables are bright green and crisp-tender, add the sauce to the pot and toss to coat all the veggies in it. If you need more liquid, add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid. In a mug, mix 2 tsp. of arrowroot with 2 Tbs. water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the vegetables to thicken and glaze the sauce. When the noodles are al dente, drain them and add them to the vegetables. Mix the noodles well with the vegetables and toss to coat them in sauce. Add the crispy tofu back into the pan and toss with the veggies and noodles. Serve hot.

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9 Responses to The Secret to Crispy Tofu and Vegetable Lo Mein with Crispy Tofu

  1. Lisa August 30, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    Hi Rhea,
    Thanks for sharing this recipe; I made it tonight. I used rice flour instead of arrowroot for the tofu, but otherwise did the tofu just as you described — it was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Best tofu I have ever made. Part of the reason was your great method and recipe, and part was that I bought a different brand of tofu than I ever have before. I don’t even know the name of it; it’s organic and I got it at a local Asian market. I didn’t press it too much, as you suggested. Anyway, it was totally delish — super crispy and seasoned outside, tender and moist inside. Heaven! I definitely did have a hard time not devouring it while making the lo mein.

    The lo mein turned out nicely, too. I only used about 2/3 of the pound of pasta, and I had doubled the sauce — I like it sauce-y and I like a high veg-to-pasta ratio. 🙂 Very tasty dish. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Rhea August 31, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

      I’m so glad you loved it. There’s nothing like crispy tofu! xoxo

  2. NancyK March 6, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    This was wonderful! I’ve made it twice now already, second time with different veggies that I had on hand. The crispy tofu is amazing! Thanks again for sharing this recipe. It’s a new favorite in our house!

  3. NancyK March 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    Delicious! I’ve made this twice now, altering the veggies a second time to use what I had. Definitely going on the “make often” list. The crispy tofu is outstanding! Thanks again for sharing the recipe. 🙂

    • Rhea March 6, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

      Hi Nancy, I’m so glad you liked it. It’s on my regular rotation list too. xoxo

  4. Val Chavez February 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    Sounds wonderful. !

    • Rhea February 26, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

      Thank you Val xoxo

  5. NancyK February 22, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    This looks delicious! I happen to have all the ingredients so I’m going to make this today!

    • Rhea February 22, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Hope you love it! xoxo


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