Sorry there’s no photo for this, but my husband and I made about 4 lbs of Southern Fried Tofu for a wedding potluck this weekend, and it was a huge hit with both the veg and non-veg. We fried up about 10 lbs of it for our wedding back in ’97, and it was the biggest hit on the buffet table that day, too – especially with the omnivore crowd. “I can’t believe it’s tofu!” is a typical response. It’s good hot, and also good cold. It’s quite salty, but that’s part of its charm. (The batter will actually cover about 2 lbs of tofu.) Use the densest, firmest tofu you can get ahold of. Extra firm is perfect. Make sure your fryer has a thermostat and fry at 360-370 F. Frying longer is better (4 minutes vs. 3) but if time if of the essence, 3 minutes is good enough. Having your oil hot enough is the key to making crisp fried stuff that isn’t greasy.
Southern Fried Tofu
Recipe By: Lisa T. Bennett, adapted from Friendly Foods, by Ron Pickarski
Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
1 pound Chinese-style tofu, firm or extra-firm
3 tablespoons veggie “chicken”-flavored seasoning (see notes)
1 1/4 cups flour, unbleached
2 tablespoons gluten flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons spice blend (see below)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup water
2 cups peanut, sesame, or canola oil for deep-frying
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons veggie “chicken”-flavored seasoning (see notes)
4 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons savory
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried basil
Remove tofu from package and pat dry (or press). Cut tofu into 2-3 pieces crosswise, then cut each of these into 4 pieces each. Place them into a bowl, and sprinkle cubes with 1 tablespoon chicken-flavored seasoning. Gently mix and set aside.
Stir together 1/2 cup of the unbleached flour and the remaining 2 tablespoons of the “chicken” seasoning. Set aside this breading mixture.
Mix the remaining 3/4 cup of the unbleached flour, gluten flour, salt, and Spice Blend. Blend well so that the gluten flour doesn’t create lumps. Stir in the water and 1 tablespoon of canola oil. If the batter does lump, blend the mixture in a blender.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet or deep fryer set to 370 F. Dip a piece of tofu into the breading mixture and coat it completely, then dip it into the batter, using tongs or long chopsticks. Remove it and hold it above the batter for about 10 seconds, tapping it gently against the side of the bowl to release excess batter. Then hold about one third of the piece of tofu in the hot oil for about 15 seconds to set the bottom so it won’t stick to the pan. Release the tofu and let it completely submerge. Repeat for the other pieces. Deep-fry the tofu a few pieces at a time to a light brown. (Don’t add too many pieces to the fryer at once or you will cool the oil down and make the tofu greasy.) Remove with a heat-proof slotted spoon and drain on paper towels for at least 30 seconds. You can place the tofu in the oven at 250 F for up to 15 minutes to retain crispness.
“Chicken-flavored” veggie broth mix is available in bulk at most natural foods stores. Bill’s Chick’nish Seasoning is also a good choice.
Serve Southern-Fried Tofu with veggie gravy, biscuits or rice, and LOTS of vegetables. It is also great served cold – like that fried chicken my mom used to pack for picnics, only better!
If you’re in a hurry, instead of the spice blend, use 1 tablespoon of pre-mixed poultry seasoning (a mix of herbs – usually mostly rosemary, sage, and marjoram) and 1 teaspoon of salt.