My solo mid-day meals are simple affairs, mostly made from what is in our fridge. They are also often vegetarian because I don’t want to feel weighed down in the afternoon. I also like to use one pan to minimize clean-up. And, the whole thing comes together in less than 10 minutes. Those are my general parameters.
Today I made this rice bowl and thought of sharing it on social media. But it was really tasty and there’s a tofu technique that you may enjoy. So rather than keep things to a short 140 characters or a single long paragraph, I decided to write up the recipe for you to tinker and tweak.
The tofu pan-searing technique is a shortcut approach to getting a delicate, brown crust on each piece. It’s not as good as a deep-fry or a pan-fry because less oil is needed. However, it’s a quick and healthy approach.
I don’t drain or press the tofu before cooking in this quickie method. I let the skillet heat do it for me. The caveat here is that you want to use extra-firm tofu. It has less water (less sputtering) and will keep its shape (not look sad).
I cut the tofu into 1-inch chunks and put them into a nonstick skillet over medium heat. A drizzle of soy sauce goes over the tofu to facilitate coloring and to season the tofu. Use regular or dark soy sauce. Here I used dark soy and wondered if it got too dark. It was just fine.
You could toss the tofu in the soy sauce in advance of putting it in the skillet but at lunch and when I’m just cooking for myself, I do everything in the skillet, shake it to toss and coat the tofu chunks. The skillet heat forces some of the water from the tofu out and eventually, the outside sears. A little oil added fries the tofu to a delicate crisp finish.
Salt and pepper layers on a flavor flourish to season it once more. Use other spices, such as Japanese togarashi or Indian curry powder, if you like. Then I reheat the rice in the skillet too. After a couple of minutes, everything’s in the bowl and I’m ready to eat.
Today, a touch of Sriracha added a nice heat note and mound of watermelon radish and carrot pickle (do chua, what I use for banh mi) offered refreshing crunch. Dark soy sauce isn't overly salty so I drizzled soy sauce into my bowl as I ate my bowlful of tofu comfort.
Note: To turn this into a gluten-free meal, simply use soy sauce that's devoid of wheat. I'll plan to do a tasting of some soon!
Pan-Seared Salt and Pepper Tofu Rice Bowl
Yield: 1 serving
- 6 ounces (180 g) extra-firm tofu, such as Whole Foods brand
- Dark or light (regular) soy sauce
- Canola or other neutral oil
- Kosher salt
- White or black pepper
- Generous 1 cup cooked, leftover rice
- Cut the tofu into chunks, each about 1 inch (2.5 cm) big. Set aside.
- Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and a light drizzle of soy sauce. Toss and turn the tofu to coat the cubes – more or less, with soy sauce. Let them cook, for several minutes, to sear. Shake and toss the skillet as needed.
- When the tofu looks seared and somewhat dry, drizzle in a little oil. This will sizzle. Wait about 30 seconds for excess moisture to be gently rendered, then raise the heat slightly to fry. Expect the tofu to stick at first. After about 2 minutes, you should be able to nudge and cook the chunks of tofu so that they fry on more than just 1 side! Aim for 3 sides to get fried.
- When satisfied, sprinkle on some salt and white pepper (or black pepper). Push the tofu to the side of the skillet or put it in your bowl. Add some leftover rice to the skillet and toss the reheat. When hot, transfer to a bowl and eat up.