As a healthy and delicious meat-free meal, my Fried Asian Tofu With Sesame Seeds and Chilli and Honey Dressing recipe combines all the rich flavours of Asian cuisine with a moreish combination of textures that’s incredibly hard to resist. And why would you want to?!
The crispy fried tofu covered in sesame seeds, drizzled in sweet and spicy chilli and honey dressing, creates a tangy-sweet-creamy balance that gives your taste buds exactly what your eyes expected when plating up.
I also really love how versatile this dish is. You can feature it as a main course, serve it as a side dish, make a statement with it as an appetizer, or surprise everyone with an unusually delicious dessert.
Tofu is completely vegan and vegetarian and also a perfect way to incorporate more plant-based options into your diet if you eat meat, as it’s a rich source of protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free, making it a heart-healthy option you can eat completely guilt-free.
Whether you’re a meat-eater or vegan, tofu tastes amazing when prepared properly and is quick and easy to cook. A great choice for busy weeknights with the family or last-minute gatherings with friends. Tofu is also an excellent substitute for meat in your favourite dishes, like stir-fries, curries, tacos and even burgers.
What I really enjoy with this particular recipe is that you can easily tweak the level of spice or sweetness by changing up the volume of sauce ingredients. This lets you adjust to your own tastes or cater to guests with an impressive meal that’s been customised to suit their preferences.
The end result is always a delectable and satisfying meal that brings together the best of Asian-inspired flavours with the health benefits of tofu.
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
Tofu is a processed soybean curd and without any seasoning has a mild and neutral taste, which allows it to absorb the flavours of other ingredients and spices when cooked or marinated. This is the perfect blank canvas for cooking all kinds of things with it, as it adapts very easily to various cuisines and dishes, taking on both savoury and sweet flavours just as well.
Tofu comes in different textures, which can be modified by pressing or freezing the tofu, making it suitable for a wide array of recipes you might choose to cook in future. Silken tofu is smooth and custard-like, while firm and extra firm tofu can be cubed, sliced, or crumbled, which all help to mimic the texture of meat or cheese.
Some people avoid tofu (and I used to be one of them) because of the perceived squeaky feel on the teeth when eating it. But this squeakiness you may feel or even hear when chewing is completely harmless and just caused by the high water content in tofu. This can easily be overcome by pressing the tofu before cooking to remove any excess moisture – or you could marinate the tofu to add flavour and assist in improving the texture at the same time.
Choosing The Right Tofu
Firm Tofu vs Extra Firm Tofu
When making any tofu dish, the first step is choosing the right type of tofu. I like to use either firm or extra firm tofu, especially as we’ll be frying it in this recipe. Both types hold their shape well when fried and can handle being tossed in a sauce. The key differences between the two are still good to know for any other tofu recipes you try:
- Firm tofu: Firmer than soft tofu but still somewhat delicate. The tofu will absorb flavours well but may require a bit more care when handling to avoid breaking.
- Extra firm tofu: Holds its shape the best and is perfect for frying. It may not absorb flavours as readily as firm tofu, but the texture is ideal for a crispy outer layer.
Soft Tofu vs Silken Tofu
While many tofu dishes call for firm or extra firm tofu, soft and silken tofu can be enjoyable too. The differences between these types are:
- Soft tofu: Also known as medium tofu, soft tofu has a tender and slightly crumbly texture. While it may be used for pan-frying or stir-frying, it is more likely to break apart than firmer types.
- Silken tofu: Silken tofu has a very smooth, creamy texture. It’s definitely not recommended for frying recipes like this one, as it is quite delicate and falls apart easily when cooked.
efore frying, it’s essential to press the tofu to expel excess water. A tofu press can be used, or you can wrap the tofu block in paper towels and place a heavy object on top for about 30 minutes, occasionally changing the towels if needed. This step is crucial for achieving a better sear and crispiness in your dish.
How To Cook Tofu
Tofu is one of the most versatile and flexible ingredients you can have in the kitchen and can be prepared using any of your favourite cooking methods, including frying, air frying, baking, grilling, sautéing, boiling, and steaming.
This versatility translates to a whole host of options when it comes to choosing a recipe or cuisine to make with tofu. From crispy fried tofu to marinated and grilled tofu skewers, to stir-fried tofu with vegetables and tofu scramble, the options are truly endless.
Just some of the ways you can choose to cook your tofu:
- Stir-frying or pan-frying: This is one of the most popular methods for cooking tofu and my usual go-to. It’s quick, easy and results in crispy, tasty cubes of tofu that are great for adding to stir-fried vegetables or noodles. You can also use this method to make delicious vegan fried rice dishes.
- Grilling: Tofu takes on a bit of a smoky flavour when grilled, which makes it perfect for adding to salads or wraps. For best results, marinate the cubes first – a good starting point would be using soy sauce and garlic for a savoury flavour.
- Baking: Baked tofu has quite a firm texture that makes it a great addition to casseroles, stews and other baked dishes. For best results, marinate your cubes before baking them in the oven until beautifully golden brown and crispy on the outside.
- Blending: Tofu is an excellent substitute for dairy products like yoghurt or cream cheese because of its natural ability to blend into creamy textures (without breaking down too much) when blended with liquids like milk or juice. Try blending silken tofu with your fresh seasonal fruits or vegetables for a delicious vegan smoothie!
How to Prepare Tofu Before Cooking
Draining and Pressing
When making any tofu dish, it’s essential to prepare the tofu properly.
For this recipe, start by draining any extra liquid from the tofu block. Removing the excess water helps to achieve a crispy exterior when frying later.
To press the tofu, wrap it in a clean kitchen towel or multiple layers of paper towels. Then place a heavy object, such as a cast iron skillet, on top of the tofu for about 30 minutes.
Pressing the tofu extracts any remaining liquid, improving its texture and making it more receptive to absorbing the flavours of the chilli and honey dressing.
Cutting Into Cubes
After the tofu has been drained and pressed, carefully cut it into cubes. I prefer to slice the tofu into bite-sized pieces, approximately 1-inch square each. This size help to cook the tofu evenly and create a good balance of crispiness on the outside and chewiness on the inside.
It also makes it easy to use just your fingers to snap these little gems straight into your mouth from the plate.
Fried Asian Tofu With Sesame Seeds And Chilli And Honey Dressing
For the Tofu
- 450 g firm tofu
- ¼ cup plain flour
- 1 free range egg lightly whisked
- 2 tbsp five-spice powder
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ⅔ cup sesame seeds
For the Chilli dressing
- ½ cup honey
- ⅓ cup sweet chilli sauce
- ½ lime juiced
- 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
For the Tofu
- Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel and cut into 12 cubes
- In a bowl place flour and five spice powder
- In a second bowl place the whisked egg
- In a third bowl place the sesame seeds
- One at a time, toss the tofu cubes in the flour and spice mix then dip them into the whisked egg and lastly, press the cubes into the sesame seeds to lightly coat all sides of the cubes
- Place the sesame coated cubes on a large plate
- Heat the oil in a large, deep non-stick frying pan over a high heat
- Shallow-fry the tofu cubes, in batches, for 1 minute each side or until golden brown
- Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain
For the Chilli dressing
- Meanwhile, combine honey, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice and chilli flakes in a small saucepan
- Stir over low heat for 2 minutes to infuse flavours
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- The mixture will thicken as it cools
- Arrange tofu on a serving platter
- Drizzle with half of the chilli honey dressing
- Place the remaining chilli honey dressing in a bowl and serve the sesame tofu cubes alongside small skewers to allow for dipping.
Impress your guests with this 2-tier serving bowl set that will add a touch of elegance and an air of surprise to any meal.
Fill the large bowl with the star of the show and the medium bowl with dips, dressings, sauces or nibbles.
A perfect combination to raise the bar on any course and any cuisine, and completely dishwasher safe.
Storing and Reheating Tofu
If you’d like to store your tofu after cooking it, remove the tofu from the heat once cooked and let it cool to room temperature.
Then transfer it to an airtight container or sealable zip top plastic bag. Separate the tofu pieces to avoid sticking or clumping together and refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking to keep it fresh for up to 4 days in the fridge.
It’s possible to store tofu for up to 3 months in the freezer but keep in mind that the texture may change slightly. Before putting in the freezer, wrap the tofu pieces tightly in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and store them in a freezer-safe container. Before reheating, move your frozen tofu to the refrigerator the night before to thaw completely.
When it comes to reheating your fried tofu, there are a few options:
- Pan Reheating: I usually use this method as it helps maintain the original crispiness of the tofu. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a non-stick skillet or frying pan, over medium heat. Once the pan has warmed up, arrange the tofu pieces in the pan and cook them until golden brown on each side.
- Oven Reheating: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper. Place the tofu pieces on the parchment paper, making sure they don’t touch each other. Bake the tofu for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and crispy.
- Air Fryer Reheating: Yes, tofu is air fryer friendly! Preheat your air fryer to 350°F (175°C) and place the tofu pieces in the basket, being careful not to overcrowd with too many pieces. Reheat the tofu for 6-8 minutes or until heated through and crispy.
It goes without saying, but remember to store and reheat the chilli and honey dressing separately, either in a microwave or on the stove over low heat. This will prevent the tofu from becoming soggy while maintaining the dressing’s flavor.
Some Serving Suggestions
Serving with Rice
I often like to pair my Fried Asian Tofu with rice, which soaks up the chilli and honey dressing magnificently. Jasmine rice is an excellent choice. It has such a fragrant aroma and slightly sticky texture, which complement the flavours of this dish perfectly.
Serving with Vegetables
Another great option for this recipe is to serve it with steamed vegetables. One of my favourite choices is steamed bok choy. It’s easy to prepare and its mild flavor doesn’t overpower the tofu or the dressing
Serve the steamed bok choy alongside the tofu or even place the tofu on top of the bok choy for a lovely presentation full of contrast!
That’s all you need to enjoy your own version of my Fried Asian Tofu, served on its own or with jasmine rice and steamed bok choy. Bon appetit!