Sweet and Sour Tofu with Rice
Maybe you've never heard of sweet and sour tofu before, but you'll most likely know sweet and sour chicken – if you've never eaten it, you've still seen it on the menu of your favorite Chinese restaurant, right? Luckily, the most important detail about this dish is not the choice of protein, but the sauce. And that's why this dish works wonderfully without any animal protein, but with tofu instead.
Although I love deep-frying so much, I decided to prepare a more weeknight dinner friendly version of this dish. So instead of dipping the tofu in batter and deep-frying it, we will simply toss it with cornstarch and fry it in the pan. This works the best when you add tofu and starch to a sealable container, close the lid, and shake vigorously. To save you extra cleaning, we only use one pan for this recipe, but you can save some time if you fry vegetables and tofu in two separate pans simultaneously.
There are many variations for the sauce – classic recipes might use ketchup or plum sauce. For our version, we use orange juice which addes fruity and acidic notes to the sauce. Tomato paste and soy sauce provide this deeper umami taste and ginger and chilli flakes will bring some heat to the game. But as always, feel free to season to your taste and add more spiciness, acidity, or sweetness to your liking.
Sweet and Sour Tofu with Rice
- 400 g (14 oz) tofu
- 2 tbsp starch
- 2 bell peppers
- 150 g (5.5 oz) zucchini
- 2 onions
- 2 scallions
- 250 g (0.75 cup) rice
- 375 ml (1.5 cups) water
- 0.5 tsp soy sauce
- sesame oil for frying
- sesame for serving
- cashews for serving
For the sauce:
- 5 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 10 g (0.33 oz) ginger
- 0.5 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp starch
- Using paper towels, pat the tofu dry from all sides, then dice into bite-sized pieces. Add to a bowl with potato starch and toss to coat. You can also use a container with a lid for this: throw tofu and starch in, then close with a lid, and shake until the tofu is coated.
- Cut bell peppers and zucchini in bite-sized pieces. Chop onion and finely slice scallions. Rinse rice under water, then add to a pot with water and season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot with a lid and let the rice simmer over medium heat for approx. 15 minutes, or until the rice is done.
- While the rice cooks, heat sesame oil in a large frying pan. Start by frying the tofu for approx. 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add soy sauce and keep frying for 2-3 minutes, before removing it from the pan.
- Now, add the onions to the same pan and fry for approx. 2-3 minutes, or until translucent. Add bell peppers and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and fry for approx. 8-10 minutes. The veggies should be softened but still a bit crunchy.
- Parallelly, roast some cashews in a fat-free frying pan until browned. Remove from heat, chop the cashews, and set aside for later.
- In the meantime, prepare the sauce: add apple cider vinegar, orange juice, brown sugar, tomato paste, and soy sauce to a small bowl. Grate ginger directly into the bowl, add chili flakes, and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, stir to combine starch and water, then add the mixture to the sauce and mix. d
- Add tofu and the sauce to the frying pan with vegetables and toss to coat. Let simmer for a few minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.
- Serve sweet and sour tofu with cooked rice and sprinkle some scallions, sesame and roasted cashew nuts on top.