How to make deep-fried tofu with thick, chewy breading
January 1, 2014 11:47 AM   Subscribe

My favorite Chinese restaurant makes fantastic sesame tofu. I want to know how they prepare the tofu.

Their tofu comes cubed with a thick, chewy, delicious layer of breading. I know the tofu is deep-fried, because I can see the dish being prepared -- but I don't know what they do to the cubes before they fry them. I do know that they don't have any eggs or milk in them, because I've asked (I'm a vegan). I also think that the breading is not made with panko crumbs, which seem to be popular these days.

I have a deep-fryer at home, but I have not been able to come anywhere close to duplicating the breading. I've used wheat flour, corn starch, and a combination of the two. The result isn't bad, actually, but it's not what I want. My fried tofu always comes out lightly breaded, whereas I want it heavily breaded.

Any suggestions that don't involve dairy products or eggs?
posted by alex1965 to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
The hint is chewy. They are tossed in corn starch.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:57 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Might be rice flour and cornstarch...
posted by elizeh at 12:23 PM on January 1, 2014

I would try a mixture of rice flour and baking powder. Ratio of about half a teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour. This will get you a coating that puffs a bit and also browns better. (That ratio would also work with corn starch. I doubt they would be using wheat flour.)

Another possibility is that they're using a wet slurry of corn starch or rice flour to make a batter.
posted by bcwinters at 12:32 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Try a two-step process - cornstarch/almond milk slurry, flour, back into the slurry, and then panko. Or more flour, if the texture of panko seems wrong.
posted by something something at 12:35 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The type of tofu matters too. Are they using firm? Water pressed out of it?
posted by Specklet at 12:45 PM on January 1, 2014

For one thing, have you tried frying at different temperatures? That can certainly affect the texture of the batter.

When I do deep-fried tofu for my own purposes, I make a batter, then roll the bits of tofu in flour, and only then dip them in the batter.

"Dry frying", as described here for example, is a technique for altering the texture of tofu that might also come in handy.
posted by XMLicious at 1:26 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Corn starch usually; rice flour has a distinctive taste. (It's good, it's just that I think you would have noticed that.)

Something that can also add to that is freezing the tofu — by making the tofu chewier around the edges and lighter in the middle amplifies the chewy breading.
posted by klangklangston at 1:43 PM on January 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, freeze and press the tofu. Freezing makes chewier, pressing helps it absorb and makes it crispier (removes water). Dredge in corn starch, then make a batter with flour and salt and baking powder...or maybe even just pancake batter, haha. The corn starch will help it stick more easily. You also might try to fry it twice--the first time, quickly and just plain to get a crispy exterior, and then put it in the cornstarch/wet batter mix.
posted by semaphore at 2:02 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am not fully convinced that the "thick breading" is not mostly the tofu itself, as in klangklangston's suggestion.

But! No reason not to try other options:
potato starch
rice flour
glutinous rice flour (prime component of chewy sesame seed balls)

If it were me, I'd try the 1 part glutinous rice flour to 3 parts wheat flour, mixed with salt and water to make a batter. Just to see what happens.

And then I would get some bean paste and make fried sesame balls with the rest of the rice flour.
posted by zennie at 2:02 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do any of these look like they have the same texture?

Chinese Restaurant Style Sesame Tofu
Crispy Battered and Deep Fried Tofu
Breaded, Fried, Softly Spiced Tofu
posted by Room 641-A at 2:15 PM on January 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had a really successful tofu frying experience earlier this week.

Firm tofu, not pressed. Cubed, and patted dry with paper towel.

Tossed in ordinary flour. Cornstarch or a mix would probably work fine.

Cast iron dutch oven, oil heated to 350°F (Deep frying works *much* better with a vessel that holds heat well, and a thermometer so you can control the temperature).

Don't be scared of the oil, have more than enough to cover what you're frying. If you don't introduce the food to the oil until the oil is sufficiently hot, the food doesn't get oily - the moisture in the food bubbling out into the oil keeps the oil out of the food.

The floured cubes fried up deliciously crusty and chewy.
posted by colin_l at 2:56 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I make this myself at home. I use tapioca flour. That's what gives it the amazing chewiness. I just roll the tofu cubes directly in the flour, shake off the excess, and then fry in about a quarter inch of peanut oil, turning so that all the sides can get golden. The tofu is wet enough on its own for the flour to stick well.

I sometimes use regular wheat flour, but it does not give anywhere near the same texture as the tapioca flour.
posted by amusebuche at 6:52 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've got a mild wheat allergy, and I've had no problems with the deep fried tofu I've had at Chinese and Taiwanese places, because they have only ever used corn flour, not wheat (maybe I have just been lucky).

I would ask them, just to check.
posted by Elysum at 11:43 PM on January 2, 2014

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