Friday, October 19, 2007

Fry Hard

Lest you believe that this is some sort of healthy food blog because my first food related post is about tofu, let me first say that I firmly hold the following truths to be self-evident:

1. All things are exponentially more delicious when deep fried
2. Just add bacon
3. Few things are more delicious than a perfectly cooked steak, medium rare
4. One of those things a is fresh out the fryer glazed donut. Or 6.

So why then, do I present myself to the blogosphere with a tofu dish? The answer is simple: I've had a culinary epiphany. You see, I previously took tofu to be a mound of watery, jiggly, cloudy water. Which is actually true, but like so many things in their raw form, tofu benefits greatly from a salty coating and a deep fat fry. And since it
is good for you, I don't feel so bad about covering it in salt and tossing it in 4 cups of oil.

The recipe I use originated in Kylie Kwong's excellent cookbook,
Heart and Soul: Simple Chinese Cooking. What first peaked my interest in the recipe was watching her make it on her show of the same name (it aires on the Discovery Home channel). Unlike most tofu cookery in the U.S., which is done with firm tofu, Kwong uses silken tofu, which is part of what makes the Chinese and Japanese preparation of tofu far superior to most American ones. This tofu is creamy in texture and less dense than the firm type, so it lends itself particularly well to deep frying and searing, creating a lovely textural contrast between the crispy crust and the soft molten interior. Dipped in sichuan pepper and salt and drizzled with lemon juice, the resulting dish is both comforting and refreshing.

So that, my friends, is my sell as far as this tofu recipe is concerned--it's crispy, salty, sweet and delicious. Not to mention, further proof that all foods benefit from a good old deep fry. Check out my version of the recipe below:

Deep Fried Silken Tofu with Sichuan Pepper and Salt

1 block silken tofu
1 cup flour
vegetable oil (or other light colored frying oil)
1 lemon (for garnish)

Sichuan pepper and Salt
3 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp sichuan pepper corns

1. Mix salt and pepper into flour (in a smal bowl) to taste. Set aside.

2. Pat tofu dry with paper towel, but don't squeeze out all of the water, and cut it into about 1 1/2 inch blocks. Toss the tofu chunks in the flour mixture to coat.

3. Heat oil on high in a wok or dutch oven. When the oil is hot, carfully add the tofu, no more than 4 pieces at a time. Flip them over halfway through cooking so both sides are golden brown and delicious. Set the cooked tofu aside on paper towel to absord excess oil until ready to serve.

4. While the tofu is frying, heat a dry pan on medium high heat. Add sichuan peppercorns and salt. Dry roast in a pan unil very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add mixture to a mortar and pestle and allow to cool, then grind into a coarse salt. Serve alongside tofu and lemon wedges as shown. Enjoy!


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