This is going to be a great week. I have decided. The weather is a little cooler, I have time – actual time – to do great things like go out for a run, maybe a swim, try some new recipes, maybe even finally choose a set of kitchen scales (this is just a saga now…). Also… the 2014 British Street Food Awards are coming up!
A few of my posts have landed on the front page of the Foodies100 recipe wall over the last couple of weeks. Between this and having people let me know they’re trying out my suggestions, I’m feeling pretty marvelous right now.
Now. Time to try new things.
I love using tofu in pad thai and Asian-inspired dishes, but my beloved has always felt pretty indifferent about it. I think that the real key to cooking tofu is marinating it. It’s essentially a blank canvas for flavour and that spongy texture makes it great at absorbing non-oily sauces.
I say non-oily, as tofu is so wet and watery, and those things just don’t mix. If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, tofu is an awesome additional ingredient alongside chicken or prawns in a noodle or rice dish, rather than as an alternative.
Back to the British Street Food Awards, then. Fabulous tofu champs Cauldron are sponsoring the ‘Best Snack’ category of the awards, and are running a competition for street food recipes.
I wanted to challenge myself to cook tofu in a non-Asian-inspired way, for a change. I thought about all the awesome vendor windows I’ve peered in to on tip-toe at various London street food fests over the past couple of years, remembering my best and worst experiences, and came up with…
My golden rules for successful street food:
1 – The best ‘street food’ snacks don’t require cutlery, as I almost never remember to grab any when I pick up my order and/or will quickly be left holding a splintered shard of plastic, with a box full of disembodied fork prongs.
2 – Crunchy nibbly bite-sized things are satisfying, but not so filling that you’re put off trying other snacks, and are fun for sharing.
3 – Dips forever.
So with these self-imposed rules in mind, I offer you…
Crunchy tofu dippers
This is a great summery snack, awesome as an appetizer, fun for sharing and lends itself to any number of accompanying dips and sauces. Best of all, it’s fun to assemble and easy to eat without cutlery or making too much mess. I baked mine to keep them non-greasy, but you could fry them in oil for extra crunchy indulgence.
Ingredients (serves 2 as a light lunch or snack)
396g pack of Cauldron tofu
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon black onion seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1 egg, beaten
Plain flour for coating
Approx 30-50g Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs – these light airy flakes are ideal to add great texture to this dish, but regular breadcrumbs would be a fine substitute)
1 – Begin by pressing your tofu for at least 15 minutes. You want to remove as much water as possible. These are good instructions, but Cauldron do explain on the label how to do this.
2 – Heat the oven to 180degrees c.
3 – Cut tofu in to pieces of varying shapes and sizes, ensuring they are big enough to survive being skewered once cooked.
4 – Mix together the spices and citrus juices to make a marinade, and pour over the tofu. Leave to absorb the flavours for as long as possible – in the fridge in an air-tight container. An hour or so is OK, but overnight would give great, flavourful results.
5 – In a sieve, dust the tofu pieces with a handful of flour and shake to roughen the edges and ensure an even coat. Think about how you roughen up par-boiled potatoes ready for roasting – same technique.
6 – Prepare 2 shallow bowls for coating the tofu – one with the beaten egg, the other with Panko/breadcrumbs. Dip pieces of flour-coated tofu in to the egg wash, then the Panko. Using separate hands for the different coatings will stop too much cross-contamination and keep your hands less gloopy.
7 – Lightly oil a lined baking tray and assemble the Panko-coated tofu pieces. Make sure each piece is spaced out on the tray with no overlapping. Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking and turning after 15 minutes.
8 – Once golden and crunchy to the touch, allow your tofu nugget-style dippers to cool a little, and carefully push on to skewers, 2 or 3 at a time.
9 – Serve with dips of your choice! We had creme fraiche with shredded spring onion, and barbecue sauce. Eat as dippers, using the skewers for dolloping in to your dips, or serve on some fresh crunchy lettuce leaves like a wrap.
The verdict? Super as a street-food style snack, and my love has upgraded his indifference to “mmmm, really tasty”. A sort of goujon/nugget-type result and perfect for our Saturday night pre-pub snack. Success.