Chinese Five Spice Crispy Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry

This Chinese five spice crispy tofu and vegetable stir fry is so flavorful and delicious! I made this for lunch recently and everyone who tried it was left drooling over the pungent flavors of this dish, myself included.

When I order tofu at restaurants I am very rarely impressed with what I’m given. Tofu has a bad reputation because of the flavorless, unexciting cubes that most people associate with it. Depending on what you do with it, however, it can be incredibly delicious! I like to think of tofu as a blank canvas; it benefits greatly from rich, pungent flavors that completely overwhelm the entire dish in a deliciously welcome way. The Chinese five spice in this recipe does just that to create the most wonderful crispy, fragrant, and delectable tofu!

Let’s talk about kohlrabi for a moment. It’s one of those vegetables readily available at the farmer’s market in autumn and winter that I never know what to do with. In fact, it’s taken me a very long time to get past the alien looking outside and actually purchase one! Now that I have, however, I have a secret to tell you. Kohlrabi tastes nearly identical to a broccoli stem and can be used in exactly the same manner!

Rice is one of my favorite grains. It goes with so many different kinds of food and holds a central place in many cuisines around the world. There are also so many different kinds of rice, each one varying in taste and texture. Some are more dry with longer grains while other have short, plump grains and are creamier and more glutinous. I like to change up the kind of rice I use and experiment with the many textures of different rice varieties in my recipes.

I discovered black forbidden rice in my local grocery store a few years ago and since then have used it in savory and sweet risottos, with simple roasted vegetables and salad, and in Asian inspired dishes like this crispy tofu and vegetable stir-fry. I love the nuttiness of this black rice and how it pairs with the spicy root vegetables here. If you’ve never tried black rice before, this article shares are some enticing reasons why you should!

The gooey black sauce on the tofu is the best part about this dish. It has the most amazing taste with the sweet clementine juice and maple syrup balancing out the pungent flavors of garlic, ginger and the five spice mix.

All in all this recipe is such a winner! I hope you like it as much as I do!

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Rice ingredients:

Stir fry ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • 1/2 red cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small kohlrabi
  • 2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp sriracha, or to taste
  • pinch of salt (optional)

Tofu ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 15.5 oz extra firm tofu (I like this one)
  • 1/2 inch ginger root, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 clementines, juiced
  • 1.5-2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Garnish ingredients:

  • 2 sliced green onions
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup toasted cashews, roughly chopped

For the rice:

Add your rinsed rice to a medium sized pot with three cups of water. Bring to a boil before turning the heat to simmer and allowing it to cook for 30 minutes with the top on until all the water has been absorbed. Depending on the rice variety you use, the cooking time will vary so be sure to read the instructions on the back of the package.

While the rice is cooking, follow the rest of the recipe so that everything finishes around the same time.

For the stir fry:

Begin by preparing all your veggies.

Finely mince the garlic, chop up the onion, and grate the ginger. Next slice the red cabbage into 1/2 inch thick rounds, then slice them again to form 1/2 inch strips. Scrub the carrots, trim the ends, and cut them into thick matchsticks. Wash and peel the kohlrabi, making sure to peel away the entire outer layer as it is very fibrous. Cut it into matchsticks slightly thicker than the carrots.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a large pan on medium for a few minutes. Add in the onion, garlic and ginger and quickly sautée with a wooden spoon so the garlic doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once the onion has softened a bit add the carrots and allow to cook for a few minutes before adding in the kohlrabi and red cabbage.

Pour in the tamari and rice vinegar and stir. Keep the heat between medium to medium high and continue to move the vegetables around in the pan for several minutes. You want them to retain their crunch while still being cooked.

After the veggies have been cooking for five minutes or so, add in the sriracha, a little at a time. Sriracha is the spice element in this dish, so be sure to taste the vegetables as you add it so that they don’t become too spicy.

Do a taste test and adjust the tamari and rice vinegar if necessary. You can also add a pinch of salt.

Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the veggies cook in the residual steam while you make the tofu.

For the crispy tofu:

Rinse the tofu and pat dry. It is very important that you use extra firm tofu in this recipe as otherwise it will not become crispy and may fall apart.

Thinly slice the tofu lengthwise into 1/8 inch strips and set aside.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a large shallow pan on medium until quite hot but not smoking. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to use two to fit all the tofu pieces without overlapping. Carefully lay the tofu into the oil one at a time. Do not drop them in as they will spatter hot oil everywhere.

Allow the tofu to fry in the oil for 5-10 minutes until the bottom is crispy. Then very carefully flip the pieces over and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sauce by adding everything to a small mixing bowl except the sesame oil. Whisk well until the ingredients are combined.

Once the tofu is crispy on both sides, transfer the pieces to another large pan with a slotted spoon or spatula, leaving the oil in the first pan. It’s okay if the pieces overlap a bit here.

Turn up the heat to medium-high and pour the sauce all over the tofu. Bring this to a boil and allow to bubble away until the sauce becomes thick and goopy. This will take about five minutes. Turn off the heat and drizzle the sesame oil over the tofu. Gently mix the oil to incorporate it into the sauce. Be careful not to break the tofu pieces as you do this.

To assemble:

While the sauce condenses, prepare the garnishes. Wash and slice the green onions and roughly chop the cilantro. If your cashews are raw, toast them in a small pan on low heat, stirring constantly until golden. Using a sharp knife, roughly chop the toasted cashews. You can also do this in a food processor.

To assemble the dish, first place a few spoonfuls of rice in a shallow bowl. Top with the vegetables and a few pieces of the crispy tofu. Spoon over a bit of the vegetable sauce as well as the thick sauce from the tofu pan. Garnish with the spring onions, chopped cilantro and cashew pieces.

 

This dish is a complete meal in itself and is perfect for lunch or dinner. Of course you could always continue with the Asian inspiration and serve it with some vegetable dumplings and a green salad with a gingery sesame dressing for a truly sumptuous feast to share with loved ones! The possibilities are truly endless so let your imagination guide you.

 

 

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