I like tofu. I really do. I love silky little cubes floating in my miso soup, and I love fat little crispy pillows of fried tofu, creamy on the inside and crackly on the outside, and I love sautéed squares enfolded in a flavorful sauce. Which is what this dish is all about.
I am also well aware that others are not such tofu fans. Take everyone I live with, for example. The only place they are genuinely content to find tofu is in their soup at a Japanese restaurant, and even then it’s not something they are excited about. So to be blunt: no one in my family has even tried this dish.
But I have. And my mother has. And my compatriots when I was making this dish for the photos you see before you. And I can’t wait to share it with my sister, and several other tofu loving friends. As the title suggest, it’s spicy, it’s sweet, and it’s nutty (peanutty – I suppose if allergies weren’t an issue it would also be great with cashews). I think next time I might give it a little more of a Southeast Asian flair by subbing in fish sauce for half of the soy sauce.
When you are sauteeing tofu, and looking for a nicely browned exterior, there are two things to remember. One is to start with firm or extra-firm tofu, and to press out much of the water. The way you do that is to place the tofu between two pieces of paper towel on a flat plate (nut one with some sort of little edge so the water doesn’t run over the side).
Then place another flat place on top of the tofu, and put something heavy squarely in the middle of the plate, like a can of tomatoes, or one of those spare bricks you might have lying around. You know, if you were just building a fireplace or something. Let side at room temp for about ½ hour, and then pour off all of the water that will have been squeezed out, and proceed to slice up your tofu as desired.
The other is to let the tofu really sear in the pan, and not be tempted to flip it around too often. It needs solid time on each side to get nicely browned and change texture from soft to something with real give.
This is great with rice to soak up the sauce, and a great addition to an Asian menu. You could go all vegetarian and pair it with Braised Asian Baby Bok Choy, Clean and Spicy Asian Greens, and Cauliflower with Sesame Drizzle. Or if you’re looking to please ALL of the masses, serve it with Chicken Yakitori, Mongolian Beef, and a salad with Japanese Restaurant Salad Dressing. Rice for sure. You could also serve it warm or room temperature over a salad.
The soup you see peeking in in the photos is Thai Chicken Noodle Soup. And I served squares over this over Vegetable Udon Noodle Soup and it was a hit. With me I mean. My family may never know.
Other Asian-Inspired Recipes:
Spicy, Sweet and Nutty Tofu
- 2 tablespoons peanut vegetable, or canola oil, divided
- 1 pound extra firm tofu pressed to remove water (see headnote above), sliced ½-inch thick, each slice cut in half
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or more if you love ginger
- ¼ cup crushed salted peanuts
- Hot cooked rice to serve, optional
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sear the tofu until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the tofu to a plate, and reduce the heat to low.
- Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan and saute the garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes for 1 minutes, until the garlic turns golden. Add the honey and soy sauce and stir until hot and well combined. Stir in the lime juice, then return the tofu to the skillet and turn so that it is nicely glazed with the sauce. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle the peanuts over the top. Serve with the hot rice.
Made this recipe? Post a photo of your delicious creation on Instagram with our hashtag #dinnersolved