I made this for dinner last night. Big slabs of tofu? Doesn't usually go over well in this house. But it was really good. I liked it a lot. He liked it except for the mint on top. He really hates fresh mint. I needed to add it to his to make it look good for the photo though, so that's just too bad.
I probably wouldn't make this again, but it was good.
Panfried Tofu with Asian Caramel Sauce
Gourmet, April 2007
I like to think of tofu as a blank canvas just waiting for the application of texture and color. Here, I've panfried it to crisp the edges and draped it in a velvety Vietnamese-style caramel sauce. A shower of fresh herbs and browned shallots gives it an extra layer of flavor. If you prep the herbs and make the sauce ahead, you can put this on the table in under half an hour.
1 14 oz block extra-firm tofu, rinsed
1/2 pound shallots (4-5 large)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 1/3 cups water plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
Accompaniment: cooked jasmine rice; steamed baby bok choy (optional); lime wedges
1. Drain tofu and fry shallots:
Halve tofu crosswise, then cut lengthwise into fourths to form 8 slices. Put tofu slices between several layers of paper towels to drain, replacing towels as needed, until ready to use.
2. Finely chop enough shallots to measure 1/2 cup and reserve. Cut remaining shallots crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and separate into rings. Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry sliced shallots in 2 batches, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes per batch (watch closely, as shallots can burn easily). Quickly transfer shallots as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from skillet and reserve skillet.
3. Make sauce:
Cook sugar in a dry 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it melts around edges and begins to turn golden, then continue to cook, stirring, until all of sugar is melted and turns a golden caramel.
4. Add reserved chopped shallots (use caution; caramel will bubble up and steam vigorously) and cook, stirring, until shallots shrink and are very fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, and 1 1/3 cups water and simmer, stirring, until any hardened caramel is dissolved, about 1 minute.
5. Stir together cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons water until smooth, then stir into sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered.
6. Panfry tofu:
Heat oil remaining in skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, blot any excess moisture remaining on tofu with paper towels, then add to hot oil in skillet in 1 layer. Fry tofu, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to clean paper towels to drain briefly.
7. Reheat sauce, then serve tofu topped with sauce, basil, mint, and fried shallots.
Shallots can be fried 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then kept at room temperature in an airtight container lined with paper towels.
Sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, uncovered, until completely cooled, then covered. Reheat sauce over moderately low heat, thinning it with additional water if necessary.