This Crispy Tofu recipe is all about textural contrast: the crispy outer coating vs. the soft, tender interior of the soft tofu itself. I serve it drizzled with a quick sauce, reduced down until thick and syrupy, and fresh scallions. The best part? No deep-frying necessary!
How to Make Crispy Tofu
The secret to making crispy tofu without deep-frying is simply to pan-fry in a good nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron pan. You’ll use a fraction of the oil, but still end up with a crispy result.
I dredge the tofu in a simple mixture of cornstarch and a little salt. It’s important to dredge the tofu quickly, and to put it directly into the pan of hot oil as you dredge it.
Otherwise, the moisture in the soft tofu (soft tofu is quite wet) will cause the cornstarch to cake up and flake off. Or the cornstarch layer could get overly lumpy or too thick!
We have already published my dad’s Crispy Skin Stuffed Tofu here on the blog, but this recipe is simpler (and if you use vegetarian oyster sauce, also completely vegetarian/vegan).
You could also potentially use this pan-frying method instead of deep-frying in our Ultimate Braised Tofu recipe.
Can I Use Firm Tofu For This Recipe?
I figured many of you would ask this question, as firm tofu is definitely easier to find and more widely available in regular grocery stores.
However, while you can substitute firm tofu in this recipe, I highly recommend using soft tofu.
It’s more delicate, but the soft, custardy texture of the tofu contrasts so well with the crispy coating. In my opinion, it would be a shame to make that substitution!
That textural contrast is the reason why in most “crispy skin” tofu dishes, Chinese chefs use soft tofu.
Slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2 inch thick rectangles.
Make the sauce by combining the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce), sugar, and water. Set aside.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, and add the oil. In a shallow dish, mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Quickly coat the tofu slices with this dry mixture.
Add them directly to the pan as you dredge them, and pan-fry until crisp and golden on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side.
Remove the crispy tofu from the pan and arrange on a serving plate.
Pour the sauce mixture into the same pan you cooked the tofu in, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce has reduced to a syrupy consistency and drizzle over the tofu.
Garnish with scallions, and serve with rice.