Tofu and vegetable piccata
From the archives. I got an email over the weekend from someone asking for vegetarian recipes. Well, there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes here actually. Here is one I posted last year, a tasty ovo-vegetarian tofu-and-egg dish inspired by healthy Korean cooking, named after a classic italian dish. And of course, great in bentos!
A lot of people shy away from tofu because they think it's too bland, or just for vegetarians or vegans. This recipe should change your mind on both count. It is still ovo-vegetarian, but omnivores will enjoy it too. It's derived from an appetizer served at a local healthy-Korean restaurant. The head chef/mom there smilingly refused to divulge the recipe, so my mother and I just figured out our own version. It's great hot or cold and is perfect for bentos. Make it for dinner and set aside some for your bento lunch the next day. You can use any combination of shredded vegetables you like - it's a great way to use up leftover veggies.
Recipe: Tofu and vegetable piccata
For this recipe to work properly, it's important to use the right kind of tofu (firm or extra-firm, not silken or soft) and to drain it properly before proceeding. Otherwise the results will be rather soggy and heavy.
Makes about 20 pieces.
1 large block of firm tofu (momen dofu in Japan)
2 tsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp mirin (if you don't have mirin, use a pinch of sugar instead)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 Tbsp. dashi or vegetable or chicken stock (canned or granules/cubes is fine)
- 1/2 medium carrot
- 1 jalapeno or shishito pepper (or other mildly spicy pepper)
- 1 to 2 green onions
1 shiitake mushroom
3 Tbsp. cornstarch (cornflour) or potato starch (katakuriko)
- 1 egg
- a pinch of salt and pepper
- sesame oil (use another oil if you don't have this)
Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise, then slice to make 20 pieces. My mother's preferred way to drain tofu is to line up the pieces on a large, flat bamboo sieve and to let it drain for at least an hour. If you don't have such a sieve, use one of the draining methods explained here. (Tip: If you're in a hurry, the microwave method works the fastest.)
In the meantime, prep the vegetables. Cut the pepper in half and discard the seeds, and shred finely. Shred the carrot and onion finely too. Cut the stem off the shiitake and slice thinly. Mix the vegetables together.
Combine the soy sauce, mirin and stock. Put the tofu on a large plate and sprinkle this mixture over them. Leave for a few minutes, turning once.
Drain off any excess moisture from the tofu pieces and dip in cornstarch or potato starch.
Beat the egg with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the shredded vegetables.
Heat up 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Dip the tofu pieces in the egg, then put into the hot pan. Make sure each piece has some of the vegetables on it. Fry on both sides until golden-yellow and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Eat hot or cold. Optionally serve it with additional soy sauce (or pack a little soy sauce bottle in the bento).
This doesn't freeze too well, but you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or so.
Variations: using poached frozen tofu or white chicken meat
Instead of the drained tofu, you can use poached frozen tofu cutlets instead.
Carnivores can use boneless chicken breast, cut into pieces (a classic piccata is made with chicken after all). No need to drain the chicken of course, and you can omit the stock from the quick-marinade and just use soy sauce and mirin.
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