Impatience was the main reason I failed at searing tofu. For years, I had given in to the temptation to poke it, turn it, examine it, annoy it. Then I finally learned that, like any very moist ingredient (fish, mushrooms, tomatoes), the less you bother it, the browner and crisper it will get. Once I figured that out, searing tofu was easy. These days it’s a fixture in our something-quick-for-dinner arsenal. In this recipe, I stir-fry it with sliced sugar snap peas. But any vegetable cut into small pieces (asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, green beans) works well, too.
Hot and Sour Seared Tofu With Snap Peas
• 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
• 4 large garlic cloves, grated
• 2 small jalapeño chiles, seeds and veins removed if desired, thinly sliced
• 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger root
• 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, more to taste
• 1 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, more for drizzling
• 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
• 1 teaspoon honey
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil, more if needed
• 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
• 3 scallions, thinly sliced
• Sesame seeds, for serving
• Cooked rice, for serving
• Cilantro or basil, chopped, for serving Directions:
Drain tofu, wrap it with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels and place on a rimmed plate; top with another plate and a weight (a can works). Let drain further.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine garlic, chiles, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, fish sauce and honey.
Unwrap tofu and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Pat slices dry.
Heat a large skillet over high heat until very hot, about 5 minutes. Add peanut oil and let heat for 30 seconds, then carefully add tofu. Don’t touch tofu for 2-3 minutes, letting it sear until golden brown. Flip and sear for another 2-3 minutes. Move tofu to one side of pan (or stack pieces on top of one another to make room in pan), then add sugar snap peas, scallions and, if needed, a few drops more peanut oil. Stir-fry vegetables until they start to soften, 1-2 minutes. Add sauce and stir well, cooking until peas are done to taste, another minute or two. Spoon sauce all over tofu, unstacking it if necessary.
Sprinkle sesame seeds over tofu and vegetables and serve over rice, sprinkled with cilantro or basil.
Total time: 20 minutes, serves 2-3.