Crispy Tofu with Rhubarb Hot and Sour Sauce

 
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Rhubarb isn’t normally thought of for savory dishes, but it’s absolutely gorgeous in this hot and sour sauce, where the acidity really shines. The marinated tofu gets pan fried until crisp and delicious before getting tossed with noodles, cilantro and thinly sliced radishes for a deeply spicy and satisfying dinner.

vitality • main course • spring • summer


 

Summer has been quite hesitant to show her face around these parts.

We had a brief glance of her this past weekend, when a sultry, sticky heat settled over the lilac blossoms along with the black flies and mosquitos. But she disappeared just as suddenly as she came, and now we are back to the windy, rainy, fifty degree weather that we have been experiencing since the beginning of May. Endless spring.

It’s fine. I mean, given the pick, I’d almost always choose a summer on the cool side over the oppressive heat and humidity we can so often get; the kind that seems to physically press down on you and settle on your skin in a clammy film the second you try to move.

I’m sure there are lots of people that would have me silently killed for saying so, but there are plenty of places in the world you can go for sweating in your sheets, thank you very much. I live in the north for a reason. I’d choose fifty degrees and raining over suffocation by humidity any day.

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The main benefit of this long and protracted spring is that everything has been pushed back. The trees leafed out later than usual. The lilacs bloomed on my birthday which I don’t think has ever happened. And the rhubarb is just now coming into its full and wonderful glory. Somehow this comforts me, as though the passage of time itself has been slowed down along with the growth of the plants.

Rhubarb must love this weather, because it seems happier than ever this year. For once I find myself with enough of an abundance to get a little experimental, and one of the first things on my list was to take things to the savory side. Can I just say that rhubarb in hot and sour sauce is a revelation? Well it is. The acidity melds with the ginger, garlic, soy and honey to produce umami perfection. It seeps into the tofu while it marinades in a hot oven, and then crisps up in spicy sweet goodness as the tofu pan fries in hot oil. You could add in more vegetables as you like, but I wanted to let the rhubarb really shine front and center here. And may I suggest that you make a double batch of the tofu? Those crispy little nuggets of goodness are hard to resist.

 
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Crispy tofu with hot and sour sauce

Total Time 55 minutes

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SERVES 4

  • 16 oz (400 g) package extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes

  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil

  • 2 tbsp Tamari

  • 8 oz (227 g) package soba noodles

  • 3-4 radishes, sliced thinly

  • small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

For the sauce:

  • 14 oz (400 g) rhubarb (about 6 - 8 large stems), sliced into chunks

  • 1 cup (240 ml) water

  • 6 tbsp (130 g) honey

  • 6 tbsp (90 ml) tamari

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated

  • 1/2 - 1 tsp chili flakes (depending on desired spice level)

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

  • While the oven is heating up, put all your sauce ingredients in a high speed blender and blend on high until you’ve achieved a nice and smooth consistency.

  • Lightly oil a large baking dish. Place the tofu in the dish and pour over the sauce. Mix everything around a few times with your hands to make sure the tofu is evenly coated and then place the dish into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

  • When the tofu is done baking, turn off the oven and start heating the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is nice and hot, use a slotted spoon (or your fingers) to remove the tofu from the marinade and transfer it to the pan. To properly crisp the tofu and achieve that nice, golden brown crust, you will want to individually turn each piece after a few minutes cooking time, repeating this procedure until you’ve browned all sides of every piece of tofu. Sounds finicky, I know, but it’s so worth it. I find a fish spatula or even a fork works well for this process.

  • While the tofu is cooking, put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Also, take the remaining marinade from the roasting pan and scoop it into a small saucepan. Check the sauce for seasonings, adding more tamari if needed and a little extra water if it’s thickened up too much in the oven. Warm it gently just before you’re ready to serve everything up.

  • When the tofu is nice and browned, add the 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to deglaze the pan and use a spatula to stir everything around and scrape up those delicious caramelizing juices.

  • Once your water comes to a boil, cook your noodles according to the directions on the package, or until al dente.

  • Divide the noodles between 4 plates, top with a generous portion of tofu, the sliced radishes, a drizzle of the sauce and a sprinkling of cilantro. Enjoy!


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