“I eat it like a tofu sandwich with cabbage”
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Sometimes a Music & Food recipe is a music pun. Other times, they are straight-up tributes to lyrical mentions. This is the latter.
The theme here comes from, in my opinion, Groove Armada’s best album. A brilliant blend of big beat, a bit of dub, UK hip-hop, and more. An ambitious potpourri of sounds and beats that still sounds fresh two decades later. While there are many brilliant tracks on Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub), the theme song for this recipe is my favorite. This is my ideal for a chilled-out UK hip-hop track. Heavy braggadocio floating over a punching laid-back funky beat. Midway through, Jeru The Damaja drops the line “eat it like a tofu sandwich with cabbage” with such swagger I knew I’d be making a tribute sandwich one day.
I just didn’t realize it would take two decades.
Tofu and I have been fighting for many many years. Throughout my personal and professional cooking career, I’ve attempted to make a tofu sandwich I truly liked. Most were meh. A few were OK. I was pretty happy 3 years ago when I made the Don’t You Forget A Banh Mi (included in the Vegetarian Issue of my Music & Food zine). I mean, it was good, but not necessarily great. So, the quest continued.
Until I finally conquered my tofu fight and learned to fry.
This is a simple sandwich. Four ingredients: fried gochujang tofu, bok choy slaw, a sweet & spicy sauce, and really good bread. The first three are obvious, but the inclusion of bread may not be. Trust me, a good crusty sub roll is what you want here. I made a version on plain potato rolls and it sucked! Looked bad. Tasted bad. Just bad. Cherie (of We Can Tour That fame) suggested a crusty sub roll, and this is the result. It’s not that the tofu or slaw is so messy they need baked structural integrity. It’s they need a proper foundation to complete them. Like Lewbowski’s rug, the sub roll here really pulls this sandwich together.
As I head into the 4th year of this Music & Food project, this update or twist (take your choice) on an old recipe demonstrates just how far I’ve come in plant-based cooking. I started this project to expand my cooking skills and dive deeper into non-carnivore culinary. Little did I know, three years later I am almost completely vegetarian and about 70% vegan. That’s a major culinary change and one I’m pretty happy with. I still consider myself an omnivore, and there’ll be the occasional meat recipe popping up, but as long as I continue making sandwiches like this, I’m all good with being #vegetarian4omnivores.
Gochujang fried tofu, bok choy slaw, and pineapple gochujang sauce on a sub roll
Makes 1 sub with leftover tofu
Gochujang Fried Tofu (see recipe below)
Bok Choy Slaw (see recipe below)
Pineapple Gochujang Sauce (see recipe below)
Crusty sub roll (make it a good locally baked roll)
Take a crusty sub roll and split lengthwise, keeping a hinge. Spread a couple of tablespoons of the Pineapple Gochujang Sauce on the inside. Lay 5-6 pieces of the tofu in the bun. Top with some Bok Choy Slaw. Drizzle a bit of extra sauce on top if that’s your thing.
GOCHUJANG FRIED TOFU
Makes 8-10 pieces
16-ounces Extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 scallion, sliced into small rounds
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons Pineapple Gochujang Sauce (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/3 cup water
Drain and wrap the tofu in a paper towel. Press gently to remove excess moisture. Slice tofu into 1/4-inch planks. Depending on the size of your tofu block, you should get 8-10 planks. Lay them on a piece of paper towel and place another piece on top. Press gently. Allow the tofu planks to sit like this for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, scallion, garlic, pineapple gochujang sauce, sesame oil, and water until thoroughly combined.
When the tofu has dried, place the 3 tablespoons of corn starch on a plate. Coat the tofu on every side with the cornstarch and set it aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the tofu and cook until crispy and golden, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is golden and crispy. Pour the sauce over the tofu and flip each piece to coat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens and the tofu is gloriously coated.
BOK CHOY SLAW
Makes about a quart
1/2 medium head of bok choy, cleaned & sliced thin
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 carrots, shredded
1 yellow pepper, sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 cup Sesame dressing
Makes about a half cup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon gochugaru
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. You’ll make a bit more than you need for this. That’s fine. It’s great on a simple salad. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Combine vegetables in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the sesame dressing and toss to combine. Allow it to rest on the counter for 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
PINEAPPLE GOCHUJANG SAUCE
Makes about a pint
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup pineapple, crushed and minced
1/4 cup pineapple juice
4 ounces white sugar
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup gochujang
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Add the vinegar, pineapple, juice, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce to a non-stick pan.
Heat over medium heat, while stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Let simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the gochujang and stir to combine thoroughly. Let it cook for 5 minutes on medium-low heat until slightly thickened.
Mix the cornstarch and water into a smooth slurry and add it to the sauce. Cook a couple of minutes until the sauce gets to your desired thickness. Keep in mind it will get a bit thicker as it cools. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.