General Tso’s Tofu


General Tso's Tofu

Growing up my mother made 4 dinners every night until I left for college.  There were very few nights that we actually all sat at a table and ate the same meal.  Most of my recollections are us each eating something different while sitting in front of a television.  A very ’70s way of family bonding.

My father would eat all these “weird” dishes with broccoli, squash and onions – my mother’s version of Asian cooking.  My brother would eat hotdogs and my mother would snack on cottage cheese and toast.  For me anything that smelled strange or odd was off the menu.  I lived on hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pizza, rice and spaghetti.  I would occasionally eat corn or french cut green beans but that was it.  For salad?  Iceberg lettuce and dressing.  Nothing else.  I loved frozen dinners.  My favorite was the Swanson Fried Chicken dinner.  Preferably it was without the vegetable mix because I wouldn’t eat that.

Part of what I am trying to do with my own children is encourage them to try new dishes, food and flavor combinations and have us sit down to dinner each night as a family.  Even on those really busy nights when we are running to different classes and lessons we eat together in the car talking about the food and our days.

But, I NEVER thought I would be one to cook let alone eat tofu.  But, the idea has been kicking around in my head for quite a while now.  I bought a package of extra firm tofu a few weeks ago and last night when I forgot to thaw meat for dinner decided it was time to pull out the tofu and try it.

Verdict:

I am really glad I tried it.  Though the tofu was a bit overcooked it was really good.  Both children liked dish and didn’t even complain about the wild rice, once they tasted it with the sauce.   I had a hard time with my son because he kept saying the chicken in the center of the cubes was too overcooked.  He couldn’t get the idea that he wasn’t eating cubed chicken.  Not a bad thing I guess.

We all LOVED the sauce.  Both kids want me to make this dish again using different meats and vegetables with the sauce.

I made this with carrots, broccoli and wild rice for a complete meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bricks extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup or so canola oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional – may use more or less adjust to your tastes
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • broccoli, carrots, peppers – vegetables of your choice (they will need to be lightly steamed to be ready to add to sauce)
  • rice – for serving

Directions:

  1. Drain tofu and cut into cubes.  Place tofu between paper towels and place your skillet or other slightly heavy object on top to press out the liquid.
  2. Mix brown sugar, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup, ginger, soy sauce and water in a bowl.  Mix well and set aside.
  3. If you are steaming vegetables to add to the meal now is a good time to get them prepped and ready to be steamed.  As you are starting to fry the tofu start steaming your vegetables.
  4. After about 15-20 minutes toss the cubes in the corn starch.
  5. Place canola oil in bottom of a large skillet or wok and heat over medium-high heat until hot.
  6. Once oil is hot carefully add tofu to pan.  Fry until tofu until brown and crispy.
  7. Remove tofu from plan and place on clean paper towels to drain off oil.
  8. Carefully remove oil from pan and wipe out with a paper towel.
  9. Add the sauce to the pan and return to medium heat.   Stir sauce occasionally until it starts to boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes until it thickens.
  10. Drain vegetables and add to thickened sauce along with the tofu.  Heat through.
  11. Serve over rice or noodles.

 

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