This recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt makes a lightly chewy, sweet-spicy tofu dish that goes from start to finish in less than half an hour. After preparing the tofu, you cook it twice in a wok: first frying it in oil, then braising it in a simple, fiery sauce that turns into a syrupy glaze. Note that although this recipe was written for the wok and is taken from Lopez-Alt’s new book extolling the virtues of this pan, you can make it in a cast iron or other heavy skillet instead.
Total time: 25 minutes
Storage Notes: Refrigerate up to 3 days.
Or buy: Gochugaru can be found in well-stocked Asian or international supermarkets.
Size tested: 4 servings
- For the tofu
One firm block tofu (14 to 16 ounces), drained and cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tablespoons groundnut, rice bran or other neutral oil
- For the sauce
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), or to taste (can substitute crushed red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 green onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
Prepare the tofu: Pat the tofu dry with a clean tea towel. If desired, wrap tofu slices in towel and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. (Alternatively, you can sprinkle the tofu slices on each side with 1/4 teaspoon fine salt and let sit for 10 minutes before patting them dry.)
Heat a wok over high heat until lightly smoking. Reduce heat to medium, add oil and stir to coat. Add the tofu, one piece at a time, in a single layer (it will rise up the sides of the wok a little) and cook, gently shaking the pan occasionally, until crispy and golden brown dark on the first side, 3 to 5 minutes. (If the tofu sticks at all when you swirl the wok, let it cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes before gently removing it with a thin metal spatula and swirling the wok to make sure nothing sticks .) Slide the tofu out of the wok. on a large plate and return the wok to medium heat.
Flip the tofu pieces over (pry them apart if they’re stuck together around the edges), then return them to the wok and cook on the other side, gently shaking the pan, until crispy on the other side, 3 to 5 minutes. Slide the tofu onto a plate and set aside.
Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the water, soy sauce, gochugaru, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic and green onion until thickened. sugar dissolves.
Reduce heat to medium-low, add sauce and tofu to wok and cook, turning tofu occasionally, until sauce reduces to a syrupy glaze that coats each piece, about 2 minutes . Sprinkle with additional sesame seeds and serve.
Origin of the recipe
Adapted from “The Wok” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (WW Norton, 2022).
Tested by Joe Yonan.
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