Kalifornsky Kitchen: Experimenting with tofu

My sibling is essentially vegan now, and has been for about six months. They’ll still eat salmon caught by family, and eggs, but otherwise, their diet is mostly plant-based. Last week, we decided to spend a couple nights making different tofu dishes, in hopes of finding a perfect, versatile recipe that can be used in a variety of dishes.

We tried two different pan frying methods, and found it was easy to prepare the tofu and to quickly cook it up in a pan on the stove. The first version was simply prepared with some seasoning, cut thinly, and then pan fried. The second version we made was inspired by an element of a Nik Sharma recipe found on New York Times Cooking. The original recipe calls for the tofu to be drizzled with a coconut lime dressing and cooked spinach, but we opted to just try the sesame tofu.

I’m always looking for a chance to use sesame seeds. I really like the way they taste. They add a nice subtle crunch to things and I buy it in bulk, so I have a ton on hand at all times. As Sharma’s recipe points out, sesame seeds also add a nice crunch to tofu.

The recipe is also adaptable, and can be changed depending on what you have in your pantry. In this recipe, we used panko and black and white sesame seeds. You could use corn starch, bread crumbs, crushed up crackers, other kinds of small seeds or your favorite spices to coat your tofu. I could see us making this with different spices and eating it prepared for a number of different cuisines.

Sesame tofu

1 package of extra firm tofu, cut into rectangles

½ cup of panko, bread crumbs or crushed up crackers, or ¼ cup of corn starch

½ cup of sesame seeds, black or white or mixed, or other kinds of seeds and spices

Salt and pepper to taste

2 egg whites

¼ cup of canola or vegetable oil

To prepare the tofu, pat it dry using a towel or paper towel. There’s a lot of liquid in tofu, and it can help to squeeze it out by wrapping the tofu block in a towel, and placing a heavier plate on top of it, to push all the moisture out onto the towel. Cut the tofu into equal-sized rectangles.

Take out two bowls, and place the egg whites in one bowl and lightly whisk them, until they’re starting to get frothy. In the other bowl, mix together the sesame seeds, panko, salt and pepper. Using one hand for the egg whites and the other for the coating, take a tofu slice and dip it into the egg whites. Place the egg white-covered tofu slice into the bowl of panko and seeds and, using your other hand, coat the tofu completely in the mixture. Place on a clean plate by the stove.

In a skillet, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, use some tongs or chopsticks to gently place a coated tofu slice into the pan. Cook on each side for about two minutes, or until the tofu is golden in color. Place the cooked tofu on a paper towel-lined plate.

Enjoy the tofu with your favorite sauce, over rice, over vegetables, in a salad, or whatever needs a crunchy block of tofu.