Tofu may be the food choice that sends my meat-eating friends running faster than anything else on earth. People can be legitimately disgusted by tofu. And it’s unfortunate, because I’m convinced that much of this disgust comes from eating badly prepared tofu, not unlike if I declared that steak was “disgusting” because I’d received a filet that was burnt to a crisp.
I am…a tofu-eating carnivore. That’s right, I choose tofu as my “protein” voluntarily. All the time. And I do eat every variation of meat – chicken, fish, beef, pork, you name it. Stay with me, folks. When prepared properly, tofu is a lighter, airier version of its meat counterparts and a perfect conduit for tangy and bold flavored sauces. Think of it as the white rice of your dish – just itching to be seasoned and covered in ingredients. I posted a sweet-and-sour tofu recipe a few years back that I still make often, but I wanted to experiment with a dish that is one of my favorites of local Asian restaurants – Spicy Mango Tofu. I’m also hoping that creating new recipes will distract me until my next big travel endeavor. I encourage my fellow carnivores to give it a whirl if you’re looking for a bit of adventure. Your steak will still be there tomorrow (even better if you start marinating it tonight while you enjoy some tofu).
-1 box of extra-firm tofu
-1 large yellow pepper
-8oz can of water chestnuts, drained
-1 lime, juiced
-1/3 cup mango juice (I used Ceres 100% juice blend)
-A handful of fresh mango slices, cut into bite-sized pieces
-4 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce
-2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
-2 teaspoons of red chili paste
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon of ground ginger
-½ cup brown rice
-Canola oil (to coat tofu and baking sheet)
-Corn starch (to coat tofu pieces)
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place them single-layer on a few sheets of paper towel. Top them with more paper towel and a plate and weigh the plate down (nothing too heavy, just enough to gently press the tofu). Leave for about 10 minutes. If using a rice cooker, add the brown rice and 1 cup water and start the cooking cycle. You can also use a small saucepan with a lid.
I bake my tofu for this recipe because it results in a nicely crispy edge and uses a bit less oil, but you can just as easily pan-fry it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with a bit of canola oil. Squeeze out a bit more water from each tofu cube with fresh paper towels (be careful not to crush them) and then put the tofu cubes into a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a bit of canola oil and toss to coat.
Next, sprinkle corn starch onto a small plate, coat each piece of tofu individually and shake off the excess. Arrange all tofu pieces onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until lightly brown and crispy. Set the baked tofu pieces on paper towel to drain.
Cut the yellow pepper into small, stir-fry sized pieces. In a large frying pan set over medium-low heat, add a bit of canola oil and the minced garlic. Once it starts to sizzle, add the yellow pepper pieces and toss. Allow to cook, tossing occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the mango juice, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, red chili paste, and ginger powder. Add the mixture to the pan along with the fresh mango pieces. Allow everything to simmer for about 5 minutes and reduce in volume. Taste test it, and add a bit more chili paste or a dash of red pepper flakes if you prefer a spicier sauce.
Once the sauce thickens a bit, add in the baked tofu and drained water chestnuts. Toss everything to coat, reduce the heat, and simmer lightly for several minutes, tossing and mixing frequently.
Plate tofu stir-fry along with brown rice. The sauce should be tangy, a bit sweet, and mildly spicy. The mango pieces add a burst of juiciness, and the water chestnuts provide a crunchy element. Enjoy (whether you’re a once-a-day tofu eater or experimenting carnivore)!