This crispy Chinese-inspired orange ginger tofu is made by smothering crispy pan-fried tofu chunks in a sweet, gingery orange sauce.
Often I find the best source of vegetarian cooking inspiration stuffed into my kitchen junk drawer. That would be a Chinese take-out-menu, or rather, one of a half dozen Chinese takeout menus that I’ve acquired in the nearly four years since moving into my current home. See, while living at my last home, in Philadelphia, I fell in love with the phenomenon known as the Chinese vegetarian restaurant. We had a bunch of these in Philly, and at most of them you could walk in, sit down and be handed what looked like a normal Chinese restaurant menu. It wasn’t though: everything was vegetarian. So if the menu listed, say, Peking duck, what you’d actually get was some vegetarian version of Peking duck, which could be made from soy, seitan, veggies, beans, or some combination of the foregoing. I was a little freaked out the first time I tried one of these places, repeatedly confirming with the server that “I would not be served meat…no, there was absolutely no meat in the place…not to worry, this is not meat that I’m eating, despite what my eyes and taste buds might be telling me…”
Eventually I got used to the idea, and eventually I became a regular at my favorite of the Chinese vegetarian places, to the point where they knew to bring the hot sauce to my table right away and not bother asking if I wanted white or brown rice.
I learned a bit from that experience. If they could veganize an entire Chinese menu, I could certainly handle a dish at a time when I was looking for something new to try in the kitchen. There are lots of ways of going about this, but you can generally get away with subbing tofu or seitan in most beef, pork or chicken based dishes. Crispy tofu is probably my favorite approach.
This particular dish is one that I tried out way back when I first started this blog, but initially I wasn’t happy with the sauce. With the beautiful arrays of citrus I’ve been seeing in the markets lately I decided to give it a go again. This time it was awesome.
- 1 lb. extra firm tofu
- 1 cup orange juice
- ¼-1/3 cup cornstarch, divided
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. orange zest
- vegetable oil
- 2 small broccoli crowns or 1 large, broken into florets
- 2 scallions
- sesame seeds
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- Drain and then press tofu for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in small bowl or cup, dissolve 1½ tbsp. cornstarch in a few tablespoons of your orange juice. Set aside.
- Place remaining orange juice in a small saucepan, along with brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and orange zest. Bring to a low simmer and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.
- Stir in cornstarch mixture until completely blended. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Cut tofu into cubes and roll in remaining cornstarch to coat. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes and cook a few minutes on each side, until browned and crispy. Transfer to paper towel to drain.
- Steam broccoli florets to desired tenderness. Return tofu to skillet, along with broccoli and sauce. Toss everything to coat.
- Serve over rice, topped with scallions, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes