My mother was a grand storyteller of food – she’d tell me about the mystical healing powers of dragon fruit, how too many oranges would make my body produce too much “fire”, and how the more tofu a lady eats, the whiter her skin would become.
Food issues weren’t ever a problem in our family, all mother had to do was instill a little fear and with no questions asked I’d eat it. “You better eat all that cauliflower Xin-xin, or your bone break off, no calcium! “ Eat all the rice in your bowl or holes will grow in your mouth!” “Better not eat too many lychee or you get pimple on your face!”
Recently she told me I should eat more firm tofu, “Newspaper say, firm tofu has more calcium then soft tofu and soooo gooood for your skin!!” Well it’s hard to argue with that.
When I make healthy meals at home I like to keep a few things in mind:
1. Lots of colors: We eat with our eyes so I usually like to load my plate full of colors: greens, reds, yellows, it’s like painting by numbers, but with food.
2. Textures: as humans we’re naturally drawn to crispy, crunchy, toothsome things. It makes our brains and mouths happy.
3. Bold flavors: Spices are a great way to pump up flavor in a meal without adding too much fat. Sauces are also a great way to add a kick to an otherwise bland meal.
For this dish, I decided to pan fry the firm tofu to add a nice crispy crust to the outside. It’s a great way to add texture to an otherwise soggy piece of tofu without it being overly oily and heavy. It’s important to use firm tofu when frying.
Roasting the carrots adds a great depth of flavor and holds a great meaty texture that makes this healthy dish feel hearty and fulfilling. Adding some fresh snow peas on top gives it a light, refreshing crunch and the sweet and spicy sesame sauce really brings it all together.
Feel free to make a large batch of roasted carrots to use for salads, wraps, sandwiches, pastas and soups. Leftover carrots last for up to a week in the fridge and go with practically anything.
Ingredients for Crispy Tofu with Roasted Carrots and Snow Peas
- 1 block firm tofu (14 oz)
- 1 Tb salt
- 2 Tb peanut oil
- 6 carrots, washed and large diced about 1” thick
- 2 Tb EVOO
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt & pepper to taste
- Handful raw snow peas, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
For Crispy Tofu:
Sprinkle salt over tofu and drain in a coriander lined with paper towels. Slice into ½” thick rectangles about 1-2” wide, whichever shape you prefer. Drain once more with paper towels, making sure the majority of the liquid has been removed.
Heat peanut oil in skillet or pan over medium high heat. When oil just begins to smoke, add tofu pieces. Fry about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and flip and repeat for other side. Place onto plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil.
For Roasted Carrots:
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a large baking tray with foil and place carrots onto pan. Mix oil and minced garlic together in a bowl and drizzle over the carrots. Make sure all the pieces are coated evenly with the mixture. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper and place into oven. Roast for 30 minutes.
Turn carrot pieces over and increase temperature to 400F. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes and remove from oven and set aside.
Ingredients for Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce
Makes about ½ cup sauce
- 1/3 C soy sauce
- 1 Tb distilled water
- ½ tsp freshly grated ginger (add ½ tsp more if you prefer a stronger ginger flavor)
- 2 Tb brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 Tb toasted sesame seeds
In a small jar or dish, mix all ingredients together and microwave in 30 sec intervals for 2-3 minutes until sugar has completely melted and sauce has slightly thickened. Adjust flavors accordingly.
You can serve this with rice or noodles. In a large bowl, place steamed rice on the bottom. Top with crispy tofu pieces and roasted carrots and top with some thinly sliced snow peas and drizzle with sweet and spicy sesame sauce. Feel free to garnish with chopped scallions or cilantro if preferred. Serve immediately.
1. For Extra Crispy Tofu: Make sure to dry tofu well before frying! The drier the surface, the crispier the crust. Retained water causes the tofu to “steam” instead of “fry” so get those paper towels ready.
2. Larger the surface area the quicker the cooking time: Because carrots are so firm, they can take awhile to cook. To quicken the process, slice carrots at a large diagonal – this increases the surface area which not only cuts down time but gives you a bigger area of “Carmelization” thus leading to better flavor and texture.
3. Carmelization during Roasting: Roasting can only occur when the vegetable/fruit is coated with oil and spread across the pan without overcrowding. When there are too many ingredients crowded on top of each other they will steam instead of roast, resulting in a soggier and blander result. Proper roasting gives ingredients a great body of flavor and texture.
4. Leftovers: Leftover tofu and carrots can be easily stored in glass Tupperware and simply reheated in a toaster oven for 10-15 minutes on “Toast” or 1-2 minutes on high in a microwave.
5. Mason Jars: These are great for sauces and dressings. Simply put the ingredients in the jar and shake. You can even make bigger batches to use throughout the week.