Crispy pan-fried tofu with Chinese black bean sauce, made from fermented black soybeans, ginger and garlic. Way better than takeout!
It’s no secret at this point that I’m fond of recreating vegan versions of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes. I spent a lot of time dining at restaurants specializing in this, and one thing I noticed is that the more comfortable you become with any type of cuisine, the more inclined you are to order at random from a menu. I did this because I could. Once I’m reasonably sure that everything on a menu is (1) animal free and (2) tasty, there isn’t a whole lot that can hold me back.
That’s how I came to love fermented black bean sauce. It doesn’t seem to be one of the most popular menu items, at least to the folks I’ve dined with, most of whom grew up eating egg rolls and sweet and sour chicken. Black bean sauce was a little leap of faith for me, and it turned out to be a delicious one. I you’ve eaten the stuff you know how flavor-packed it is. If you haven’t, now is the time to find out.
Before I go any further, I should clarify something. As I mentioned above, these black beans are fermented. They’re not the black beans you see piled high in cans at every supermarket – the ones you usually find in Mexican or Southwestern fare. These beans are douchi – heavily salted and fermented black soybeans. You can sometimes find them in a well stocked supermarket, but your best bet is to try an Asian market or online. You don’t want to eat these beans right out of the container (I tried), as they’re super salty and have a strong earthy, fermented flavor. I was actually reminded of the few times I accidentally ate fish sauce and I’m thinking of trying to work these into some type of fish-sauce substitute. In any event, that strong, pungent flavor that you probably don’t want full strength in your mouth works deliciously when mellowed out in a sauce, and the sauce was perfect on some hunks of crispy pan-fried tofu and broccoli (just harvested from my garden!).
Crispy Tofu with Chinese Black Bean Sauce
For the Chinese Black Bean Sauce
- 1/4 cup fermented black beans
- 1 1" piece of ginger peeled
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. chili paste
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
For the Tofu Stir-Fry
- 1 tablespoon high heat oil
- 1 (14 ounce package) extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
- 2 broccoli crowns flowers, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 scallions chopped
Prepare the Sauce
- Place beans, ginger and garlic in food processor. Blend until mostly smooth - you might still have a few bean chunks, and that's fine.
Transfer to saucepan and add sugar, broth, vinegar, soy sauce, and chili paste.
- Whisk everything together and bring to a simmer. Allow to continue simmering over low heat while you prepare the tofu and broccoli - about 15 minutes.
- Just before serving, whisk water and cornstarch together in small bowl. Add to sauce and stir to blend completely before removing from heat.
Prepare the Tofu Stir-Fry
- Cut tofu into bite sized triangles or cubes.
- Coat large skillet with oil and place over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook on each side until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes per side.
- Steam the broccoli using a steaming device of your choice. If you don't have one you can also boil and drain it. Cook until tender-crisp.
- Add broccoli and sauce to skillet with tofu. Flip to get everything well coated.
- Serve over rice and top with scallions.
For more guidance on how to get that perfect crispy tofu texture, check out this guide.