Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chinese Orange Tofu:

Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Chicken?

I guess there's some unwritten but well understood law which dictates that one cannot eat the same type of food two meals or even two days in a row. That's a rule I don't understand. Somehow I just missed the boat on that one. For example, if I go to a Mexican restaurant for lunch and get some tacos, I'll eat them and move on. Then, when dinner rolls around, I'll have no problem making enchiladas. My wife, on the other hand is a staunch champion of the unwritten law. She'll say, "Enchiladas?!! We just had Mexican for lunch!" I'll reply, "And your point is?" To which she'll respond, "You CAN'T have Mexican for lunch AND dinner!" I'll volley back with a "why not?" And her answer is always the same: "Because you just can't, that's why." 

I rarely feel that way. Especially about Chinese food. I could have it two or three days in a row and never think twice about. Well, not until I'm reminded of the law anyway. "Because you just can't. That's why." How can I argue with that?  

There is a Chinese food joint up the street from my house that my wife and I frequented for several years. The food was always amazing but the service was always horrid. It was pretty common for us to get our plates several minutes apart from each other and the only time our drinks were refilled was when we flagged down the waitress. Then one day, it happened. The quality of the food took a nosedive. It became consistently mediocre. It seems the cook that had made that wonderful food for so long was gone. On what great new adventure he had embarked upon was never learned by us. Oh well, I suppose all great things must come to and end.

However, back in it's heyday, when the food was still awesome and the service still sucked, we would often talk to the gals serving the food and try to get hints on what was in it (besides the obvoius, of course). We were always told that the chefs were very secretive of their recipes and techniques. When the wait staff would inquire about the ingredients, the chefs would clam up and would actually put their bodies in between the wait staff and the food so nobody could see what they were doing. They told us that the cooks had come here from China and had been trained in Chinese cooking for many years prior to their arrival. They claimed that the techniques were highly secretive and that nobody in the restaurant knew the "secrets" except the chefs. I always thought that was kind of cool but now that I think about it, maybe they were just messing with me. Hmmmm. 

We've since found another Chinese place a little further out but just as good. One of our favorite dishes there is Chinese Orange Tofu. It's basically crispy fried tofu tossed with broccoli in a somewhat spicy orange sauce. We get it every single time we go there. We can be creatures of habit when we find something we really like. But that's ok because every time I eat it, I'm just in Heaven. 

As many times as we've ordered it, I figured it was about time to figure out how I could make it myself. I'm sure there are some secrets from somewhere deep in China that I'll never be privy to, but that's ok, it'll be close if not better. Take that, super secret chef from China!

The crispy tofu portion of this recipe I found here at Serious Eats. Great site to peruse. 

Chinese Orange Tofu


  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tub extra firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp orange zest
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 5 dried red peppers (think chiles de arbol or cayenne pepper), halved, seeded, stem removed
  • 6 Tbsp cornstarch, divided
  • 1 quart peanut oil (or other frying oil)
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized florets


  • white rice


1. In a medium saucepan, add the salt and about 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.  

2. Meanwhile, drain your tofu and cut widthwise into 3/4 inch thick slices. 

3. Place the tofu slices in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let stand 30 seconds, then drain off the boiling water being careful not to break your tofu slices. 

4. Place tofu slices, side by side, on a towel or a few paper towels and cover with another towel or paper towels. If possible, place a cookie sheet on top of the layers and place a weight (maybe just a few pounds) on top of the cookie sheet. Let stand for 15 minutes. Tip: The idea here is to squeeze out any excess moisture in the towels. Tip: Be careful not to make the weight so heavy as to crush the tofu.  

5. In a medium sauce pan, add the next twelve ingredients up to and including the dried red peppers and stir to combine. 

6. Make a slurry with 3 Tbsp of the cornstarch and 2-3 Tbsp of cold water. Stir cornstarch slurry into the sauce mixture. 

7. Over a medium high heat, bring sauce mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Turn heat to low and continue to simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce into a bowl and set aside.  

7. Clean and dry the saucepan and add the peanut oil. Bring your oil to 350° F. Tip: Be careful not to go much higher, you don't want to burn your oil. 

8. While the oil is heating, cut your tofu slices into 3/4 inch cubes. Place tofu in a bowl and toss with the remaining cornstarch. 

9. Deep fry the tofu in two batches for approximately 4 minutes per batch and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil. 

10. In a wok, heat a tablespoon of oil over a high heat until just smoking. Add the broccoli and stir fry until broccoli is just beginning to brown but still green and slightly crunchy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Now add the tofu and the sauce to the wok. Toss with the sauce to coat the tofu and broccoli, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.  

Servings: 4