Tofu stir-fry brings the heat

Gretchen Mckay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Stir-fries can be a boon in a busy cook’s kitchen — quick to prepare and incredibly versatile, they dish up a whole lot of flavor without a whole lot of fuss (though you may have to do some chopping).

Meats can generally be swapped out for vegan proteins like tofu or tempeh, and likewise with any vegetables you might include. If you don’t like beans or carrots, for instance, peppers or broccoli are an easy substitute; the only rule is to make sure you add hard vegetables to the pan before quick-cooking ones so they’re crisp and tender at the same time.

This recipe pairs tofu with crispy, pan-fried mushrooms, celery and paper-thin slices of ginger in a sauce infused with chili pepper — a welcome punch of gentle heat on a chilly winter day.

Extra-firm tofu (or firm, if you can’t find that) works best in this dish, because it will keep its shape during frying; soft or silken tofu will fall apart. Also be sure to press as much water as you can out of the block

before cooking it by pressing it between two layers of folded paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth.

I like the spicy, garlicky kick of chili oil with crunchy garlic, but it’s completely optional if you’re not a fan — if you omit, simply add a little more soy sauce to get a good glaze on the tofu. If you use gluten-free soy sauce, the dish will appeal to those with gluten sensitivities or allergies as well.

Serve with white or brown rice. For lunch the next day, I reheated the leftovers in a cast-iron skillet in a 350-degree oven until the tofu and veggies crisped up, about 10 minutes.

Stir-fried Tofu With Crispy Garlic Chili

1 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

12 ounces baby bella or button white mushrooms, stems trimmed, cut into thick slices

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal

2-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced

1 jalapeño chile, thinly sliced

2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon crunchy garlic with chili oil, or more to taste

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Juice of 1 lime

Handful coarsely chopped cilantro

4 cups cooked short-grain or brown rice, for serving

Cut block of tofu into thirds crosswise, then cut each piece crosswise again, and then into 1/2-inch pieces. Pat dry with paper towels.

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. When oil is shimmering and easily slides across surface of pan, carefully add tofu in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown underneath, about 4-5 minutes. Flip each piece over and continue to cook until browned on second side, another 4 minutes. Transfer tofu to a plate, leaving oil in pan.

Pour remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into skillet and heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add mushrooms to pan and cook, undisturbed, until crisp around the edges and browned underneath, about

5 minutes. Give mushrooms a toss and continue to cook, tossing often, until browned and crispy in most spots, about 4 minutes longer.

Add fried tofu, celery, ginger, chile, green onion, soy sauce, crunchy garlic and sesame oil to pan. Cook, tossing often, until celery is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add lime juice. Scatter cilantro over and toss once more.

Serve over or alongside cooked brown or white rice.

Serves 4.

— Adapted from