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Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu, Can you make it as the restaurants do?
Does your pan-fried tofu come out soft and soggy? Why can’t we make crispy pan-fried tofu as our favorite Japanese restaurant serves? The truth is, you can. But, like so much in life, it just takes a little know-how.
The Essential Steps Include:
- Buy Extra-Firm tofu
- Freeze it
- Drain off the excess water
- Cut into slabs (I like to make about 4 per block)
- Press out the absorbed water
- Coat with cornstarch
- Bake or pan-fry
If you want to marinate it first, you will need to add two steps after step 6. These will be:
- 6a: soak in the marinade for desired time
- 6b: press out the marinade
Now proceed with step 6.
Now, let me explain each step in greater detail.
1. Buy extra-firm tofu. Extra-firm is our go-to but when not available, firm works, too. You don’t want the soft or silken variety for this project. Save those for your puddings and other such recipes.
2. Freeze the tofu. Yes, you might get good results if you skip this step. But freezing tofu helps create a chewier, meatier texture. You’ll notice the difference.
3. I prefer to thaw mine in the refrigerator the day before I use it. But when I forget to take it out in time, a quick thaw in a cool water bath works, too. Leave the package sealed while thawing.
4. Open the package and drain off the excess water your tofu soaked in. Pressing the block a little at this point helps speed up the next step, too. Just ensure that you don’t break or crumble the block at this point.
5. Cut into slabs or strips. If you plan to make them into cubes, you will cut those later.
Tofu is spongy
6. Press out the excess water. Tofu absorbs whatever it is in, much like a sponge. That helps it to absorb the flavors we infuse it with. But like a sponge, it can only hold so much. We need to get rid of most of the liquid whether we are marinating or just creating a crispy texture. HINT: You can choose to buy a tofu press. Many options, such as this one “example” exist. However, you can also put the block in your flat bottom colander and add weight to the top. I always put a bowl or pot under to catch the liquid as it drains. Another option is to use two plates with a weight over. Again, you might want to put this in something to catch the liquid.
7. If you plan to make slabs or strips, you can continue. If you will be making cubes, cut your pieces into cubes at this point. Then…Bring on the cornstarch. Put your cornstarch (and any seasonings you choose) into a small bowl. Generously coat the tofu pieces in the cornstarch. Ensure that all sides are coated.
8. Pan-fried tofu takes a little patience. Heat a small amount of oil in your wok or large skillet. Add the tofu pieces, being careful not to crowd them. Now for the patience. Allow them to cook until they are browned on one side before turning. You might feel tempted to stir them or turn frequently. But don’t. That will create a mushy texture.
You want crispy, right? Then give it time to crisp!
Alternatively, you can bake it in your oven. Place the pieces on a lightly oiled baking sheet. I like to use parchment paper instead of oil. Bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes. Turn it, then bake another 10-15 minutes until it’s a deep golden brown on the edges.
Recipes we like with crispy tofu include: