Juicy Fried Tofu (锅塌豆腐)
September 12, 2020
This Juicy Fried Tofu is a famous Chinese dish from China’s Shandong province, which was also the hometown for Confucius and Lu cuisine (鲁菜), one of the major four cuisines in China. It might not have the same popularity oversea as Ma Po Tofu, but it is also delicious and simple enough to make at home. And for those who cannot tolerate the spicy and numbing taste of Ma Po Tofu, this tofu dish might just be to your liking.
The Chinese name for this recipe, “Guo Ta” (锅塌), refers to a specific cooking technique, in which the main ingredient is first breaded with egg and then lightly fried before being slowly simmered in a flavored stock. Tofu turns out to be a surprisingly good choice for this technique. The lightly fried tofu has an attractive golden color. After simmering in a stock, the tofu takes on a complex flavor from the stock mixture but still maintains a slight crispness.
Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Low Carb
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-6 people
Tools: Nonstick pan or well-seasoned skillet1
- 1 block (~1 lb or 450g) of medium or firm tofu2
- a pinch of table salt
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¼ cup corn starch
- 1 large egg or 2 medium eggs
- 1 green onion
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce3
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup low sodium stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
- 1 teaspoon dried shrimp (optional)4
- Slice the tofu into large squares, about a half inch (~1.25 cm) thick and 2 inches (~5 cm) wide. Lightly sprinkle a pinch of salt on both sides and place the tofu on a kitchen towel lined plate for 10 minutes. (Kitchen towel helps absorb extra water from the tofu.)
- While waiting for the tofu, mince the ginger. First, peel off the skin. Then use a meat pounder or the back of a cleaver to smash the ginger. Finally, gently rock a chef’s knife back and forth across the loosened ginger to mince it. Set aside. Cut the green onion into small pieces. Set aside together with the minced ginger.
- In two separate bowls, place the ¼ cup of starch in one bowl and beat the egg in another bowl. Use a paper towel to dry the tofu by patting it lightly. Then fully dust the tofu squares with the corn starch on both sides. Once done, lay all the tofu squares on a large plate (no overlapping). Don’t throw away the extra starch left in the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the starch to make starch water and set aside.
- Heat a large nonstick pan or a large well seasoned cast iron skillet on medium heat. When the pan is getting hot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Dip a corn starch dusted tofu square into the egg. Then placing the egg breaded tofu on the pan. Repeat with the remaining tofu.
- Lightly fry all the tofu squares. Put one layer of tofu on the pan only. Monitor the heat closely (medium or medium-low) to make sure tofu is only lightly fried. After about 3 minutes, flip the tofu to fry the other side. Once done, both sides should have a golden to light brown color. Transfer all the tofu to a large plate.
- In another small bowl, make the sauce by combining the 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce and the 1 teaspoon of sugar and set aside.
- With some oil remaining in the pan, raise the heat one notch up to medium-high. When the oil is getting hot, add the minced ginger, sliced green onion, and the 1 teaspoon of dry shrimp (optional), stirring to mix. Add the 1 cup of low sodium stock or water and the sauce from the previous step, stirring to combine. (If using water instead of stock, add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or ½ teaspoon of table salt)
- When small bubbles start to appear in the stock, place the lightly fried tofu one at a time into the pan. The tofu should be half submerged in the flavored stock. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer to let the tofu slowly absorb the flavored stock. After about 5 minutes, there should be a noticeable reduction in stock. Carefully transfer the tofu to a large plate leaving the stock in the pan.
- Add about 1 tablespoon of starch water to thicken the stock. If there is still much stock left, add more starch water until you reach the right consistency. If after taking the tofu out, there is little stock left, omit the starch or only add 1 teaspoon of starch water at a time.
- Pour or spoon the thickened stock mixture onto the lightly fried tofu. Best enjoyed when it’s hot.
- The pan should be large enough to hold all the tofu in one layer. For me, I find either a 10-inch (25 cm) or 12-inch (30 cm) cast iron skillet works the best. Nonstick pans also work well here as the recipe does not require a high temperature. Just make sure the nonstick pan is not too large otherwise the stock is too dispersed for the tofu to fully absorb the flavor.
- You can find tofu in most grocery stores these days (whether Asian or not). Here I used the tofu bought from Trader Joe’s. Either medium or firm tofu works for this recipe as the tofu should not break apart easily.
- For a gluten free version, make sure to use gluten free light soy sauce (生抽) or tamari (溜酱油). You can easily find gluten free ones made by Kikkoman and San-J in grocery stores and supermarkets.
- The dried shrimp adds more umami but is completely optional.