Monday, March 28, 2011

Spiced Tofu Katsu


This past weekend my friend Missy flew down from San Francisco to visit me.  Missy and I have been friends since the very first minute of the very first day of high school, and though our friendship has ebbed and flowed over the years, it always remains a constant undercurrent in my life.  If I am feeling down or just need a good laugh, her smile is infectious and she has vast stores of hilarious comments at the ready.  (She knows I love to hear, "Petrie do not feel sad.  Many things do not fly...Rocks, trees, sticks, Spike...")  We also share all our happy moments with each other and she is my most loyal friend, and such a huge part of my past and my present.  No matter what we are doing, there will always be laughter and fun...and often cheese (of course with wine).  Time with her always recharges my happy batteries.


When she was here this past weekend, we had a long laundry list of things we wanted to do, and naturally, we only got around to about a fourth of them.  Eh, it happens.  Of course, food and eating featured predominantly on the list, but we also managed to sneak in a trip to beautiful Torrey Pines Beach.  Before I tell you about the awesome Spiced Tofu Katsu that we made, I thought I would share a few photos.           

Late afternoon Torrey Pines sun.

Footsteps in the sand.

Basking in the glow of the sun, and watching the pelicans overhead.


Sandstone comes in many colors at Torrey Pines.

Beachcombing for seashells. 

Missy spotted the tiniest jellyfish sparkling on the sand.

A closer inspection of the jellyfish.

Sun setting below the clouds.

Missy and I actually visited a lot of different restaurants while she was here (unusual for me since I don't eat out that often), but we also made time to do some cooking at my place.  Since Missy is a vegetarian, we decided to make Spiced Tofu Katsu so she could try out a completely new recipe.  If you are a carnivore, this recipe is a riff off of a traditional Japanese chicken or pork katsu, with a little added spice to give the tofu some punch.  

To dry out my tofu, I place it on paper towels and weight it with my pasta canister.

Shichimi, or Japanese 7-spice.

Normally, chicken or pork katsu is just dredged in plain flour for battering, but this tofu gets a bit of spice from shichimi.  Also known as shichimi togarashi or Japanese 7-spice, this spice blend contains chili pepper, black pepper, dried orange peel, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nori seaweed, and hemp seeds.  It is a fantastic spice for heating up the flavor of soba dishes and I love the vibrant color.  The shichimi, plus salt, garlic powder, and onion powder make for a spiced flour that coats the tofu, followed by the beaten egg, and finally a layer of panko breadcrumbs.   

Bowls lined up in order for breading the tofu: first spiced flour, then beaten egg, followed by panko.



Breaded tofu before frying.  

After breading, the tofu is deep fried to give the crust a lovely golden color and crispy texture.  I know some people have a bit of a fear of frying, but even Missy was surprised just how easy it was.  She was also curious about what I did with all that oil once I was finished, and I told her I save it!  Vegetable or canola oil for frying can be 'recycled' many times.  It can start to pick up odors depending on what you fry (fish for example, is quite pungent) and over time the color will darken, but don't throw it away until it gets very dark or the layers start to separate.  This tofu only needs a quick fry to brown the crust, since the tofu doesn't actually need to be 'cooked' in the oil.  



We actually tried breading the tofu either with a single layer of flour-egg-panko, or by double breading it - you can see the difference in the photo below, and we decided we preferred the single layer of breading.  The double layer was almost too thick, and the soft tofu started to slide out from the breading when we tried to eat it.  On the other hand, the single layer of breading adhered really well to the tofu, and gave just the right amount of crunch and flavor.  

Single layer of breading on the left, double layer of breading on the right. 


We actually topped our Spiced Tofu Katsu with Sweet Chili Sauce, but it would also be delicious with traditional katsu sauce.  This recipe will make 8 slices from one block of tofu, which makes it the perfect size for an appetizer for a party, or for a healthy dinner paired with sauteed veggies or a crunchy salad.  And carnivores, this recipe isn't just for vegetarians - I promise you will swoon over the warm, silky texture of the tofu inside the crispy katsu crust.  I have a weak spot for sweet chili sauce, so that just made me love this dish even more.  And really, isn't everything better fried?     



You might also like: Chopped Salad with Baked Tofu

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Spiced Tofu Katsu
Inspired by a recipe from The Wagamama Cookbook
The Wagamama Cookbook

14 oz of firm tofu
1 1/2 tbsp shichimi, or Japanese 7-spice (get it here, got mine from MarketSpice); add more or less shichimi depending on preference 
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder (optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Canola oil, for frying
Sweet chili sauce for serving


First drain the tofu, and place the entire block on a plate or board lined with 2 absorbent paper towels, then place another layer of 2 absorbent paper towels on top of it.  Top the tofu and towels with a heavy plate or dish, and let the towels absorb water from the tofu for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare 3 wide shallow dishes lined up in order: 
1.) flour mixture (shichimi, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, flour, mixed well)  
2.) beaten eggs   
3.) panko breadcrumbs.  


Once the tofu is drained, use vertical cuts to slice the tofu into 8 rectangular-shaped pieces, each about 1/2-inch wide.  (Think about slicing it like a loaf of bread.)  Bread the tofu by dredging it first in the flour mixture, then in the beaten egg (let excess drip off), and finally in the panko breadcrumbs.  Pat the breadcrumbs on to help them adhere. 


Fill a large heavy-bottomed pan or skillet with at least 1-1 1/2 inches of oil, and heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add the tofu slices 4 at a time to the skillet, being careful of the hot oil.  (The tofu should be immersed in the oil.)  If the temperature drops when you add the tofu, adjust your burner heat to keep a constant frying temperature between 330-350 degrees.  Fry the tofu until golden brown, turning it over if necessary to evenly brown all sides.  Carefully transfer the tofu slices to a plate lined with paper towels, and repeat the process for the remaining 4 slices of tofu.  Let the tofu set for a few minutes to cool before serving, tofu retains a lot of heat when fried.  Serve with sweet chili sauce or katsu sauce for drizzling or dipping.            

45 comments:

  1. I am so, so glad that you decided to share this post. I have such fond memories of playing the part of Petrie as my friends and I imagined we were living in the Land Before Time! And I am also lucky enough to have a friend who is truly my sunshine-- her birthday was this last weekend. It looks like you had a GREAT time with your bestie! Fried tofu is about the only way I can stomach it-- must try your recipe!

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  2. That tofu dish is very original and looks so appetizing! It looks like you had a great time...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. Those pictures make me miss San Diego, I lived there when I was going to UCSD and I loved it. I can't get over that tiny little jelly fish you guys found, it's amazing!

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  4. I love taking visitors to Torrey Pines! Beautiful photos. =)

    The katsu looks great. I'm one of those who is afraid of frying, but I'm tempted to try it for this.

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  5. This looks like something i would totally eat (vegetarian here). Thanks for the idea! As for that jellyfish, how were you guys able to spot that tiny thing?! very cool, nonetheless.

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  6. My favorite particular use of leftover frying oil after frying tofu is making doughnuts. Because I really like doughnuts and it seems the perfect foil to the supposed "oh I'm being healthy by eating tofu!" idea.

    Also, love the land before time reference!

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  7. Oh my!! I love this. I don't like tofu but I think I will like this one. Love the photos.

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  8. How wonderful to have friends like this. This tofu is a keeper, for sure!

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  9. Ooooh! This looks delicious! And the jellyfish - amazing!

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  10. I've said it before and I'll most likely continue to say it every time I comment. But you, my dear, take the most gorgeous pictures. Yep yep yep.

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  11. This looks great. I like tofu, but my husband isn't the biggest fan so I'm always looking for different ways to make it. Plus I LOVE LOVE LOVE Wagamama -- ate there practically every day when I was studying in London back in my college days.

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  12. great idea! Now I can make katsu for Meatless Mondays. Now why didn't I think of that before? Your photos, as always, are gorgeous. Therea

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  13. What an interesting recipe! I'm a tofu nut, even though I'm not a vegetarian. Can't wait to try this spice blend! Thanks for sharing :)

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  14. That tofu katsu sounds delicious - I love tofu!

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  15. YUM!!!

    http://lovecupcakesandjesus.blogspot.com/

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  16. I am a big fan of tofu and this recipe sounds wonderful. I also love sweet chile sauce and am more than happy to find ways to use more of it. Beautiful photos!

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  17. Ohh i love katsu. Your recipe looks wonderful.

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  18. Glad yo had fun, I also need some camera lessons from you.. Your skills are really getting amazing!

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  19. Wow you definitely did Torrey Pines justice. I love hiking around over there at that time of day. It's gorgeous isn't it?? I love your pics. P.S. did you hear about the woman who tried to climb down to Blacks Beach naked last week and got stuck? She had to be saved and it was all over the news. Ooops!

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  20. Yes, they are beautiful pictures and it sounds like you had a wonderful time with a great friend. I'd love to try the tofu without telling my mother-in-law what's in it. (She thinks it sounds too much like "toad food" so it must be!)

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  21. 'toad food'!? So funny, Rosemary!

    The 7-spice sounds interesting. Haven't ran into it before. Looks like a good mix to jazz up some tofu!

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  22. That is one beautiful infectious smile. Sure to bring sun shine any where. This is one of the best tofu recipes! and your pics make it ever so much better. Beautiful. Can I pick up a slice?

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  23. Gorgeous photos - of fun and food! There's nothing quite like cooking with friends. I love your oil-saving tip too: so true, green, and budget-friendly.

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  24. The tofu looks wonderful! I love that it's breaded! And it looks like you had a blast with your friend! Friends are SO awesome, no?!?!? :D

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  25. Beautiful photos! Sounds and looks like you had a wonderful time with your friend.

    The Tofu Katsu looks so crispy and delicious. Yum!

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  26. What a scrumptious dish, and gorgeous photos. Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time :)

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  27. I've never been to Torrey Pines Beach but now you just made me want to go (or to go to any beach anyway!) You also make me want to try this tofu recipe. When I make it at home I always feel something is not quite right compared to the tofu I eat outside home. Now I know I have a recipe I can trust!

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  28. Although you didn't get to everything on your list, it looks like you got to the best parts! Lovely, lovely photos and the recipe looks perfect.

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  29. Aww, so happy to read this post. I am going to visit my childhood girlfriend soon. We have been friends since 8th grade (a very long time ago!). Though we don't live in the same city, we can pick up a conversation on the phone like we are still right down the street.
    Love the 7 spice on almost everything~

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  30. Just stumbled upon your blog via Creature Comforts - love the style of it :-) Will sneak in now and then from now on...
    Marlene

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  31. This looks wonderful, and I love your photos of Torrey Pines Beach. I've been going there since I was a little girl. My dad and I used to hike a trail called "Fat Man's Misery". Now I take my kids to the beach and to hike the trails. It's one of my all time favorite places in San Diego.

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  32. Oh my word! This looks so delicious! And your day at the beach with Missy looks like an absolute blast. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  33. What a great post Amanda! And tribute to Missy Loo. This makes me wish I was there with you both! Hope you had a wonderful visit together. And this tofu looks delicious. Since I have become vegetarian, I am always looking for new, yummy things to eat. (it's never really that hard). Keep up the great cooking, photographs, and inspiration!

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  34. This is a delicious recipe! I enjoyed it immensely! I save my oil from frying too and each time I fry, the crust gets browner-I love it. Fresh oil makes for too light a crust.

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  35. lovely photographs! so peaceful...

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  36. Just found your blog through Enlightened Cooking, and as I was reading this post, I couldn't help but chuckle...my roommates from college and I quote Land before Time too!! So funny!
    Well, I am very pleased to have found your blog. I instantly knew I had to be a follower since your title includes my favorite herb of all time: cilantro! Love it!

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  37. Friends are such a blessing! I just posted about that too...I must admit I don't know much about tofu, so I will try your recipe. It looks so appetizing..!

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  38. kompromisslostoll and Day-Dreamin' Optimist: So glad to have both of you here as new readers! :)

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  39. Hmmm this sounds familiar! I also made this while visiting my sister and it was awesome! Can't go wrong with wagamama! The frying was definitely easier than I thought it would be.

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  40. This recipe, your awesome photos, and your cute cilantro-sprouting-out-the-hip photo just earned you a new reader. I'm subscribing immediately.

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  41. The sunset pic is breathtaking. I love sunsets and they bring so much pleasure.

    Love these fried beauties and I would love tofu just for that finger-licking sauce

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  42. Todd: So glad to have you here, and hope you enjoy all the rest of my recipes!

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  43. I just have to post and tell you that since printing out this recipe a month or two ago I've been making it pretty much weekly...as a vegetarian who loves katsu, this is seriously amazing. Thank you!

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  44. Great recipe! Wondering will it be good baked?

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  45. The food looks delicious, but I am most jealous of all the beachcombing :)

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