Chewy outside and soft inside, pan fried tofu is super delicious with flavour-packed garlic sauce. A perfect dish to wake up your taste buds.
One of my blog readers recently asked for some Sichuan style vegetarian dishes. Today’s pan-fried tofu with garlic sauce (鱼香豆腐) is a great option: protein-rich tofu squares nicely golden with a little oil, then coated with a mouth-watering Sichuan classic “fish fragrant” sauce.
No need to deep fry
I’m not a big fan of deep-frying so I usually fry tofu with a little oil in a wok/pan. It gives the tofu a beautiful golden colour and retains its original soft texture inside. It can be quite tricky to fry tofu though as it’s rather fragile and easy to break or stick to the pan.
How to prepare the tofu
- Choose medium-firm tofu if possible. Cut the tofu into squares. They should be around 1.5cm / 0.5inch thick.
- Remove excess water from the surface of the tofu as much as possible. Otherwise, you might end up with splashes of oil when frying. Use a clean tea towel or disposable kitchen paper to pad dry each cut of tofu.
- Coat the tofu with a thin layer of corn starch (which also enhances the golden colour of the fried tofu).
How to pan-fry the tofu
- Heat up the oil in a wok/pan over high heat. Don’t slide in the tofu pieces until the oil is hot. Then turn the heat to medium. Fry until both sides are nicely golden.
- If frying with a traditional wok ( or a cast iron pan) which doesn’t have a non-stick surface, remember not to move the tofu until its surface crisps up.
How to cook the garlic sauce
After transferring the fried tofu onto a serving plate, use the remaining oil to cook the delicious garlic sauce (aka Fish fragrant sauce, 鱼香汁). As I explained in the previous post on Sichuan shredded pork with garlic sauce, this famous Sichuan stir-fry sauce bursts with flavour: tangy, spicy, sour, savoury with a hint of sweetness. Here are the ingredients required:
- Ginger, garlic & fresh chilli
- Sichuan chilli bean paste
- Shaoxing rice wine, black rice vinegar, sugar, cornstarch
What is Sichuan chilli bean paste
For this pan-fried tofu dish, I use Sichuan chilli bean paste, instead of Sichuan pickled chilli, to spice up the sauce. A few tips on how to choose the right paste:
- Authentic Sichuan chilli bean paste (aka spicy Doubanjiang, 辣豆瓣酱) is a fermented paste made of chilli, broad beans, salt and wheat flour.
- Pixian Douban (郫县豆瓣), a well-known variety, is the best choice.
- I suggest you avoid using Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Sauce (李锦记辣豆瓣酱) which is very popular in the West. It contains flavouring and additives other than the four basic ingredients thus it’s not really suitable for creating Sichuanese dishes.
Make a vegetarian feast
The very last step is to combine the fried tofu with the glossy, thick, fragrant sauce and garnish with spring onion. Enjoy immediately with plain rice.
Pan fried tofu with garlic sauce (鱼香豆腐)
For the tofu
- 600 g medium-firm tofu, 21oz
- 2 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil
For the sauce
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 fresh chilli, finely chopped,, or to taste
- ½ tablespoon Sichuan chilli bean paste
- 1 ½ tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 ½ tablespoon black rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
Prepare the tofu
- Cut tofu into squares of about 1.5cm/ 0.5inch thick. Pad each piece dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper. Sift corn starch over tofu to create a thin coating (both sides).
Fry the tofu
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok (or a frying pan) over high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the tofu squares into the pan (Do not overlap. You might have to fry them in 2 batches).
- Turn the heat down to medium. When one side becomes golden brown, flip over to cook the other side. Transfer onto a plate when both sides are done.
Cook the sauce
- Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil into the same wok. Stir fry ginger, garlic, fresh chilli & Sichuan chilli bean paste until fragrant.
- Pour in the liquid mixture (remember to stir well beforehand).
Assemble the dish:
- Place tofu squares back into the wok. Gently move them around. Dish out when the sauce becomes thick and the tofu is evenly coated.
- Garnish with scallions. Serve immediately with plain rice.
I’m never tired of eating Sichuan food! Looking forward to tasting more scrumptious dishes in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, on my next Culinary Tour of China.