Introducing a delicious tofu recipe that you’ll absolutely love! In this recipe, we’ll show you how to make crispy tofu that is bursting with flavor. Get ready for golden-brown crispy cubes of air-fried tofu, delicately drizzled with a thick soy glaze. The dish is elegantly garnished with vibrant scallions, adding a pop of green freshness.
Why This Works
This recipe for crispy air-fried tofu succeeds due to the use of the air frying method, which achieves a crispy texture with minimal oil. The tofu is coated with starch to absorb moisture and enhance crispiness. Precise cooking time and temperature settings are crucial. A flavorful soy glaze adds a burst of taste, while scallion garnish provides freshness and visual appeal. The combination of these elements results in a delicious, crispy tofu dish. For more flavorful vegan dishes be sure to also check out my Tempura Mushrooms, Eggplant Unagi Sushi, Cucumber Salad (Pai Huang Gua), or Romaine Lettuce Sesame Dressing (Phoenix Tails) recipes.
What is tofu?
Tofu (bean curd) is a plant-based protein source made of soybeans, water, and a curdling agent. It is created by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the solids into solid blocks. It is known for its high protein content and versatility with the ability to absorb the flavors of other ingredients in a dish with a marinade or sauce. It can be cooked multiple ways such as frying, baking, or grilling, making it suitable substitute for meat in a wide range of recipes.
It’s important to note that not all variations of tofu are exclusively plant-based. For instance, there is a Chinese ingredient called fish tofu, which can be found in hot pot dishes. Fish tofu is different from traditional tofu and is more akin to fish cakes, as it is made from a starchy fish paste and shaped accordingly.
What are the different styles of tofu?
If you’re shopping for tofu, you may notice different descriptions or numbers that indicate firmness. Each type has a different use. For example, some types may be more suitable for serving uncooked, grilled, or fried. Tofu comes in different textures that vary from soft to firm, offering a range of options for your culinary adventures. I found that medium and firm tofus were the best options for air frying!
- Silken: Silken tofu is not pressed but instead formulated with a thicker coagulating agent. It possesses a delicate and silky-smooth texture, making it a versatile option. It can be eaten raw, boiled, baked with, or blended.
- Medium: Medium tofu has a slightly firmer texture compared to silken tofu, and its curds are visible. While it may be more prone to cracking when handled, it is still less delicate than silken tofu. Medium tofu is particularly well-suited for air-frying, braising, or boiling.
- Firm: Firm tofu offers a solid and sturdy texture, with its curds being even more pronounced than those of medium tofu. Its strength makes it an excellent choice for air-frying, stir-frying, pan-frying, deep frying, or grilling. Additionally, firm tofu readily absorbs marinades, allowing for flavorful dishes.
- Extra Firm (Super Firm): Extra firm tofu boasts the densest texture among all tofu types, providing a heartier and substantial bite. It is an ideal option for those seeking meat substitutes, as it can withstand more intense cooking methods. Similar to firm tofu, extra firm tofu is easily stir-fried, pan-fried, deep-fried, or grilled, offering a range of culinary possibilities.
How do I cook with corn starch?
Starch contains enzymes that, if not fully deactivated during cooking, can break down mixtures and result in a thin and runny consistency. To prevent this, it’s important to neutralize the enzymes in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil for at least 3-5 minutes to ensure complete deactivation.
When using starch to achieve an ultra crunchy exterior on tofu, it plays a vital role in drawing out excess moisture. You can use corn starch, potato starch, or sweet potato starch—each of them works well. Before frying, activate the starch by spraying the tofu with oil. Then, halfway through cooking, give the tofu a shake to ensure even browning and crispiness.
What is mirin?
Mirin, a sweet rice wine, is a popular type of seasoning extensively utilized in Japanese cuisine. Its appearance is characterized by a clear, golden color and a slightly syrupy texture, offering a delightful sweetness to various dishes. With a significantly higher sugar content compared to sake, mirin serves as a fantastic ingredient to infuse dishes with sweetness and enhance their flavors. It finds frequent application in sauces, marinades, and glazes, lending them a glossy texture and imparting a subtle sweetness that elevates the overall taste profile.
Unlike sake, mirin is not used for meat tenderizing or odor removal in cooking. It’s created by fermenting rice, and then adding a syrup made from rice to sweeten it and distilled to create an alcohol content of around 14%. Mirin also serves as a glaze for fish and meat, and is used to add a bit of sweetness to sushi rice.
Soy Garlic Air Fryer Tofu
- 1 Air Fryer
- 10-14 oz medium firm, or extra firm tofu
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- Spray oil
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp cold water
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp mirin or sake
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 1/4 cup scallions julienned
- Tofu | Remove the plastic film from the carton of tofu and carefully drain out the liquid. Next, place a few layers of paper towel on a cutting board and gently invert the container of tofu over them. Discard the container leaving the tofu on the cutting board. Cover with another thick layer of towels and stack with a flat, weighted object. Rest for 10 mins.
- Sauce | While the tofu is draining, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and water until they are combined. In a pan set over medium heat, add the soy sauce, corn starch slurry, vinegar, mirin, sugar, garlic, and black pepper. Mix well and stir continuously until the mixture comes to a roiling boil, 3-5 mins then remove from heat.
- Shape | With the long side of the tofu facing you, divide it into 6 even columns. Turn the tofu so that the short end is facing you and divide into 5 rows. Finally, cut the tofu crosswise into 3/4 inch cubes. Add the tofu cubes to a large bowl along with starch and salt. Toss the tofu gently with your fingers until it is evenly coated.
- Cook | Line the wire rack of the air fryer with the coated tofu cubes. Spray the tofu cubes generously with oil to activate the corn starch. Preheat the air fryer to 380 ºF / 193 ºC and cook the tofu for 5 minutes. Shake the basket and cook the tofu for an additional 5 minutes at 400 ºF / 204 ºC. The tofu should be lightly browned and have a bubbly surface.
- Assemble | Toss the fried tofu with the sauce until it is evenly coated. Garnish the dish with scallions before serving.If you've tried this recipe, please let me know what you think in the comments below! Your feedback is greatly appreciated and it helps me improve my recipes for future cooking adventures. And if you enjoyed it, don't forget to give it a thumbs up or share it with your friends! You can help my channel by tagging @vocabularyoffood in your cooks. ۶(◠ 。◠)۶