Fried tofu is the only way I've been able to get perfect tofu stir-frys, amazing pad thai, and even a really excellent Italian-herb-breaded tofu awesomeness. Fried tofu is even super yummy all by itself - and I own up to making it and then dipping it in buffalo sauce.
While it might seem like it'll be tricky or take too much time, it's really quite simple when you do it right, and those few extra minutes of frying the tofu are worth the crispy exterior and creamy inside. :D Plus, you don't use very much oil for the frying, which is excellent, and you can use the same oil to cook veggies after!
I've been trying to perfect fried tofu for about six months now, and I am utterly in love with the way I'm doing it currently. I have finally been able to fry tofu as perfectly as my favorite Thai place back in Louisville! HOORAY!
There are a few important things to remember when making fried tofu, but when you get the process down it's nearly foolproof!
Step 1: What You'll Need:
- 1 package firm/extra firm tofu
- a few tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
- paper towels or lintless towels or some sort
You'll need the towels for drying the tofu - I've used cloth towels before and it works great. Just make sure whatever you're using won't leave part of itself on the tofu.
Step 2: Drain and Press the Tofu
Now, there are two ways to go about pressing it:
- Press it in one big block - will need 15-20 minutes
- Cut it and then press it - best for when you're trying to get food on the table quickly
If you're pressing it as a block:
lay down a couple sheets of paper towels, put down the tofu, sprinkle with salt, and cover it with a couple more paper towels. Put a plate with something heavy on it on top. (Not too heavy though - anything heavier than a 14 oz can is too much - I've had tofu burst. :P) I like to use a ramekin. Leave for at least 15 minutes and then blot the tofu dry with more paper towels.
If you're cutting then pressing:
cut the tofu to the size you like! Lay it down onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Then cover with more paper towels and press down gently with the palm of your hand. Press all over until the top layer of paper towels begins to get wet. Now let this sit for a few minutes. :) If you have a cutting board or something similar that will cover the cut up tofu, feel free to use that to press it!
Step 3: Use the Pressing Time As a Prep Break!
I cut up lots of veggies and started a stir fry sauce while the tofu was finishing. :D
Step 4: Frying!
Add a few tablespoons of oil to a pan - nonstick is best, but I've done this in stainless steel too. :D
Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers - I tend to go with 7 on my gas stove. At this point, make sure that your tofu is REALLY dry. Blot it again with paper towels. If it's wet your kitchen will get dangerous very fast.
Add the tofu to the pan and let it cook on the first side for about three minutes. Don't overcrowd the pan or it won't fry, it'll steam instead! When you see that the bottom of the sides are nice and brown it's time to flip. (see the second photo for what this should look like)
Once it flips, give it another 2-3 minutes. The tofu should be nice and golden brown and smell slightly nutty when done! Keep in mind that cooking times will vary depending on your heat, so just be patient and keep checking the color.
When the tofu is done, set it aside and let the oil drain on paper towels.
Make sure to not fry it too much - if the tofu goes a darker brown color it's going to be crunchy all the way through and you'll miss out on the lovely creamy bits inside. :(
Step 5: Eat + Additional Recommendations
On this tofu frying day I made a veggie stir fry to go with it and a sauce. If you have time when cooking with tofu, it's always best to fry it and then let it simmer in a sauce. It'll be much more flavorful.
I've also coated the tofu in beaten egg and cornstarch, but it came out quite egg-y and it wasn't worth the extra work. Same goes for egg and soy sauce.
Though I do recommend marinating the tofu and then frying - that's turned out quite well. Soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sesame oil was quite yummy. :D