Panko and Coconut Crusted Tofu by Joanna Tambakis
Tofu-2 blocks of firm, frozen tofu.
******I like to freeze tofu beforehand and then take it out of the freezer the night before allowing it to dethaw at room temperature. Freezing the tofu will make its texture denser. An added bonus is that the tofu will be easier to work with when you have to squeeze excess moisture out after unthawing.*******
For the tofu marinade:
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water to thin the marinade
- Juice of 1 lime or lemon
- pinch salt
- pinch garlic powder
- pinch ginger powder
For the crispy batter:
- 2 cups flour, separated
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup coconut flakes (your choice as to sweetened or plain)
- ¼ cup black sesame seeds (optional but a tasty and recommended addition)
- oil for frying (coconut and grapeseed oils are best because of their high smoking points)
To prepare the tofu:
- Drain and gently but firmly pat the tofu dry with paper towels being careful not to break it. Squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can but don’t worry if some remains.
- Cut the tofu blocks width-wise into smaller rectangular steaks (one block of tofu can be cut into 5 or 6 steaks)
- Prepare the marinade and place the tofu pieces in the marinade to soak for at least an hour (don’t forget to flip the tofu at 30 mins so that both sides get to marinate).
When ready to make the meal:
- Spread 1 cup of dry flour unto a large plate.
- Put 1 cup of flour in a shallow bowl and add enough water to form a thin paste.
- Mix the panko, coconut and black sesame seeds in a 3rd shallow bowl.
- Dredge each marinated tofu piece through the flour, evenly coating each piece.
- Then dredge each piece through the flour ”paste”.
- Finally dredge each piece though the panko/coconut/sesame mixture so that each side is covered.
- Heat a large frying pan with oil (make sure it is very hot but if its smoking its TOO hot and will probably burn the tofu!).
- Gently and carefully place a couple tofu pieces in the hot oil. You want to flip sides when they are light brown. Depending on how hot your oil is, frying takes around 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Careful not to add too many tofu pieces into the pan at once! This greatly increases the cooking time. Also, the longer a piece is fried in the oil, the more oil it absorbs. So high temperature is a must.
- When golden on both sides, remove from the oil and rest on paper towels allowing excess oil to drain away.
- The tofu pieces can be kept warm until ready to serve, in a moderate oven or should be served immediately.
(Things can get messy at this stage if you are doing this solo. If you have a friend or lover who can help you out it makes things much easier. One person can be in charge of dredging the tofu in flour and another person can be in charge of dredging the tofu in the flour paste and then coating it in the panko/coconut/semae mixture it and placing it in the oil. REALLY helps!!)
Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
Buy a bottle of sweet chili sauce and make it SEXY by adding in a couple of key ingredients.
Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a small pot and fry up one diced red onion with 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 3 tablespoons minced ginger. Fry until the onion begins to soften and brown and then add in the entire bottle of sweet chili sauce and lower the heat to low. Add ½ cup of chopped pineapple or mango and let it gently simmer for 10-20 mins. Take it off the heat and when cooled add ¼ cup chopped coriander. SEXY!!
*****I use this trick to make store bought salsa sexier too. Add ¼ -1/2 cup each chopped fresh sweet corn, coriander, red onion and fresh tomatoes to a can of salsa. You can add a couple thinly sliced chili peppers if you want some extra heat and a couple cloves fresh minced garlic. A squeeze of lime juice at the end is a nice addition as well!*****