I didn’t come up with this idea. It belongs to Seattle-based radio show host Dick Stein. When we met up in September to tape an interview for KPLU, Dick said that after reading and cooking from Asian Tofu, he was inspired to buy dried tofu skin and deep fry it. The result was soy chicharron, Dick said.
You can do all kinds of amazing things with tofu skin, which despite its name is really the film that forms on hot soymilk. The Japanese call it yuba and the Chinese know it as doufu pi or fu pi (tofu skin); in Vietnamese, tofu skin is called dau hu ky. You have likely had it at dim sum or on a Viet ride plate as a dumpling wrapper to encase a paste of shrimp; the recipe for those fried shrimp tofu skin rolls (xia fu pi juan) is on page 182 in Asian Tofu.
There are many kinds of tofu skin and basically, they differ in how dried they are. If you’re interested in extra details, I posted a tofu skin primer earlier this year and tofu guru William Shurtleff just published an online history of yuba.
Dick’s tofu skin chicharrones used sheets of dried tofu skin – sold at Chinese and Vietnamese markets near the dried mushrooms. Get a flat package that contains the yellow pieces of tofu skin. Then get ready to fry up the skin into sparkly pieces.
The skin fries up like an Indian pappadum. No wonder, both are made from legumes. That means that it’s fast (less than 20 seconds) and easy frying (little oil is absorbed). Be organized. Additionally, once you get the hang of it, you can bend and roll up the fried tofu skin to form arty, crazy shapes. I fried a rectangular-ish piece and used chopsticks to roll it immediately after I pulled it from the oil. The result looked like a pipe and reminded tme of a deep-fried scroll of yuba that I had at a Japanese iazkaya in New York.
After frying all the tofu skin pieces, I sprinkled on lots of fine sea salt to season them. The bubbly crisp pieces were ethereal and delightful to munch on. If you prefer to garnish with them, by all means go for it. They will soften quickly once exposed to moisture so I’d just top foods with it at the last minute. This evening, we broke up pieces of the tofu skin chicharron and dropoped them into bowls of hot soup. They added a nice chewy texture and richness.
Yield: enough for 3 to 4 people to snack on
- 2 sheets dried tofu skin, each about the size of a manila envelope
- Canola oil, for deep-frying
- Fine sea salt
- Break the tofu skin sheets into pieces about the size of the palm of your hand. Set aside. Put some paper on a baking sheet for draining.
- Heat about 3/4 inch of oil in a wok or deep skillet to 360 to 375F (180-190C). Fry each piece of tofu skin, sliding it into the hot oil. Use chopsticks in one hand and a skimmer or slotted spoon in the other hand to turn the tofu skin over (if needed). The tofu skin will bubble wildly and turn opaque yellow before darkening and becoming translucent.
- Drain on paper towel and repeat the frying for the remaining tofu skin pieces. Sprinkle with lots of salt and eat. The tofu skin chicharrones can be fried hours in advance and kept at room temperature.