I’ve had serious cravings lately. Serious Asian food cravings. Cravings to travel again, back to Vietnam where I can eat crispy tofu, and as many spring rolls as humanly possible. The wanderlust struggle is real.
For now, the best I can do is recreating my favorites in my own kitchen. This time around, it’s Crispy Sesame Tofu.
Our first real meal in Vietnam was in Hội An. We sat on the balcony of a restaurant, overlooking the pedestrian and bike only streets, watching the locals and tourists alike mingle. We ordered Tigers, and everything we could possibly eat off of the menu. We sat, we ate, we talked, and laughed, and awed at the fact we were actually in Vietnam.
Before this trip, I’d maybe tried tofu twice. Maybe. And those times were in a very “I’ll have a bite of it to say I have tried it” way. My friend is a vegetarian through and through, and I’m more of a flexitarian of sorts (I eat vegetarian 90% of the time, but when traveling I definitely have a “when in Rome” approach). Anyway, this meant we ordered a lot of vegetarian items to share. I also turned into a tofu convert.
That first meal included Bok Choy, a Vietnamese crepe/pancake that for the life of me I can’t find the name of, and Crunchy Tofu Coated in Young Sticky Rice, – the inspiration for this recipe. The menu said the tofu was coated in Vietnamese bread crumbs and fried up. We couldn’t really figure out the “coated in young sticky rice” part. They were served with rice, and sweet chili sauce.
Recreating this recipe, I used panko bread crumbs and a little sesame seeds for added texture. As is the theme on FITK, instead of buying a sweet chili sauce for these bites of crispy, crunchy tofu squares, I made my own!
This sauce is based on the Vietnamese dipping sauces that we had all over – slightly tangy, slightly sweet, and slightly spicy with a ton of flavor. Basically the perfect pairing for crunchy tofu.
In this foray into actually cooking with tofu myself, I learned that you must drain the water from extra-firm tofu by placing towel papers on both sides of it, and then topping with some weight. I used a pan with some cans of beans on top.
Once the tofu is drained and cut into squares, it’s dredged in egg with a little water, dipped in the panko mixture, and ready to cook in a little bit of oil until crispy!
Crispy Sesame Tofu with a tangy, sweet chili sauce is perfect as an appetizer or side!
- 8 ounces extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch thick squares
- 1 cup panko
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon water
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fresno chili, chopped
- Alternatively you could use 1 teaspoon garlic chili paste
- 1 teaspoon fish oil (or to taste)
- 2 Tablespoons water
- Drain tofu by placing it between paper towels and topping with weight (pan, cutting board, cans, etc.) and letting sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile you can make the sauce (directions below).
- In a small bowl, combine panko, sea salt, black pepper, sesame seeds, garlic powder, and onion powder.
- Cut tofu into 1/2 inch thick squares. Whisk together egg and water. Dredge tofu squares in egg mixture, then panko mixture to coat. Place on a plate or cooling rack.
- Coat the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil (or neutral oil of choice). Once hot, gently place tofu squares in the oil, careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, and flip. Cook the other side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set on a paper towel . Continue cooking the remaining tofu squares.
- Whisk together lime juice, sugar, garlic, chili, fish oil, and water.