“Think I need a devil to help me get things right”
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I know I’m a rock heretic. Why? Because I honestly think Nirvana was “just OK.” There were plenty of better grunge/Pacific Northwest bands – Screaming Trees & Soundgarden come to mind – but Kurt was kinda sexy and tortured and in the right place. I’m glad for the short reign of Nirvana for two reasons. One, no Fat Cobain which honestly – given Elvis – was a possibility. Two, The Foo Fighters. Look, I’ve got nothing against drummers. Hey, some of my best friends are drummers. But who would have thought Dave Grohl, that dude in the background holding down the beat, would end up creating one of America’s best fricking rock bands out of the ashes of one of American Rock’s Greatest Tragedies? The Foo Fighters combine garage, bar, and stadium rock into one flawlessly likable sound that transcends rock snobbery. It’s probably clear I am a BIG fan, and it was the theme song here that was my gateway. It’s a “big hit” obvious track, but it’s a brilliant rock track. I’m not sure if I actually heard any Foo Fighter before encountering “Learn To Fly,” but I’ve been hooked ever since.
There are two puns for this recipe. First is the title. I have spent years fighting with tofu to get a flavor and texture I liked. The second involves finally finding a solution. I just needed to make my way back home and learned to fry.
My first revelation was Super Firm Tofu. Maybe it’s always been out there, but my local grocer only recently started carrying it. Far less moisture means less pressing and drying and a better texture when cooked. Once dried, hot oil and patience result in crisp golden tofu during pan-frying. No need to coat in corn starch or flour. I feel like I’ve tried this in past experiments, but perhaps it’s the lower moisture of the Super Firm (or maybe I’ve gained patience) that turns the trick here.
The biggest revelation was sauce versus marinade. I don’t know why, over the years, this didn’t click, but if the goal is to remove moisture from tofu for a better texture, WHY are we then putting it in a marinade? That’s just adding moisture back into the mix. The goal is to add flavor via sauce and glaze. And this recipe succeeds in that respect in spades! A sticky spicy fragrant coating makes this tofu a perfect sandwich filling or just a killer banchan-style bar snack or appetizer.
Crispy pan-fried tofu with gochujang sauce
16-ounces Super firm tofu (though Extra Firm will work with extra drying)
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 gochujang
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. 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, gochujang, sesame oil, and water until thoroughly combined.
Heat the vegetable oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the tofu and cook until crispy and golden, about 7 minutes per side. Flip and cook until the other side is golden and crispy. Patience is the key here. Pour the sauce over the tofu and flip each piece to coat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens and all tofu is gloriously coated.