Vegan one-pot glazed tofu that’s sweet, savoury and spicy

Inspired by a Chinese technique, this dish is on the table in under half an hour. By Yewande Komolafe

Tuesday 07 December 2021 12:00
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<p>The dark, star-anise-spiced caramel sauce is absorbed by the tofu and rice </p>

The dark, star-anise-spiced caramel sauce is absorbed by the tofu and rice

Sichuan hui guo rou, or twice-cooked pork, inspired the technique that’s used on tofu in this vegan one-pot recipe. The blocks are seared whole, torn into bite-size pieces and returned to the pan, where the craggy edges absorb the sauce – a dark, star-anise-spiced caramel mixed with rice wine, soy sauce, ginger and spring onions.

As it coats and infuses the tofu, that same sauce builds sweetness, acidity and umami. But if it’s even more complexity you’re after, adding a spoonful of doubanjiang (fermented broad bean paste), fermented black beans or chilli oil doesn’t hurt.

Glazed tofu with chilli and star anise

Serves: 4

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 (400g) packages firm tofu, drained

2 tbsp neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed

Salt

50g sugar

1 whole star anise

240ml vegetable broth or stock

60ml Shaoxing wine

60ml dark soy sauce (see tip)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 (1.5cm) piece fresh ginger, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 small hot dried chilli

6 spring onions, whites cut into 1.5cm pieces, greens thinly sliced

Steamed rice, for serving

Method:

1. Place the tofu blocks between paper towels and press gently to remove excess liquid.

2. In a large frying pan or cast-iron pan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season both sides of the tofu with salt and place in the pan; sear without moving until the contact side is browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the pieces over and sear the other side until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a plate.

3. Carefully add 120ml water, the sugar and star anise to the pan (the mixture will sputter and steam). Cook, stirring, until the syrup is reduced and turns deep amber, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the stock carefully (again being mindful of sputtering), Shaoxing, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chilli and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced, syrupy and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Use your fingers to break the tofu into 1.5cm pieces, return to the pan and add the spring onion whites. Toss to coat with the sauce and cook until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and discard the star anise and dried chilli. Garnish with spring onion greens and serve immediately with steamed rice.

Tip: To replicate 60ml dark soy sauce using regular or light soy sauce, combine 60ml regular or light soy sauce with 2 teaspoons molasses.

© The New York Times

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