Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu Strips with Spicy Fries

I’ve been making these crispy tofu strips (or ‘fingers’ as I tell the kids) since Janik and I started dating and I was determined to prove that tofu wasn’t “all that bad”. This is one of my oldest, tried and true recipes I’ve had in my cooking “playbook” so I’m excited to share it with you.

I should start by saying that I never started developing this recipe with the intention of creating chicken fingers sans the chicken. Rather than try to ‘recreate’ the texture and/or flavour of meat-based recipes I try to embrace the textures and/or flavour that vegan-friendly ingredients bring to the table in their own right. A colleague for example, recently asked me “why do vegetarians and vegans try so hard to create non-meat dishes that taste just like meat”. Just think veggie “bacon” or soy “ground round” to name a few and you know what I mean. My philosophy is that vegan cooking shouldn’t be about “us vs. them” (meat vs. vegan dishes)…we all appreciate a good burger and if it’s possible to make a burger that is good for animals, the planet and one’s own health and tastes great, why not go for that burger?

As I mentioned in our recent post for Fiesta Tacos since the kids have recently taken a liking to spicier foods I thought I would take my traditional pan-fried tofu recipe (see our Tofu Parmigiana) and add some heat. In the ten-plus years I’ve been making these tofu strips I’ve discovered three key things: extra firm tofu is a must, use a blend of breadcrumbs and Panko for the ultimate level of crispiness, and be sure to pan-fry in oil that is not too hot otherwise the coating will burn.

This recipe is great for those weeknight dinners or when you feel like pub-style food (without the grease!). The spicy fries are incredibly easy to make as well and are a great companion to any casual main such as our Pesto-Berry Drizzled PaninisThe key ingredient in making these fries is to use a good quality smoked paprika — in fact smoked paprika has probably become one of my top new “finds” for 2017.

The great thing about this recipe is its versatility – play around with the spices and amounts until you reach the level of heat that suits you best.

Enjoy~

Preparation: Tofu Strips
1/Select three small mixing/prep bowls.
2/Rinse tofu in cold water. Using a clean, dry tea towel wrap the tofu and squeeze to release as much water out of the tofu as possible. If you have time, let it sit for about 15 minutes to release any excess water (I usually don’t have time for this, lol!)
3/Once pressed, cut the tofu into 1/4″ slabs (or preferred thickness)

Ingredients: Tofu Strips 
1 package firm or extra firm tofu (organic, non-GMO if possible)
3 Tbsp aquafaba for “dipping” (see note below)
1/2 cup flour for “dipping” (of your choice, I used white, unbleached, organic flour)
Coating Ingredients:
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp chili flakes (use more if you prefer more spice!)
Olive oil (for pan-frying)
Dipping sauce of your choice (see Product Recommendations below)

*Aquafaba Tip* I always keep a supply of aquafaba in our freezer. Next time you need to cook chickpeas reserve the cooking liquid (aquafaba) and transfer into an ice cube tray. Let freeze (approx. 24 hours) and simply thaw the cubes as needed. A handy conversion:
1 egg = 3 Tbsp aquafaba

Instructions: Tofu Strips
1/Place aquafaba in one mixing bowl, flour in a second mixing bowl, and coating ingredients in a third mixing bowl.
2/Dip each tofu slab (both sides) in your prepared bowls following this sequence:
-Flour
-Aquafaba
-Breadcrumb-Panko mixture

Place each coated tofu slab on a plate — they should not touch one another. If you have time, chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

3/Turn your oven element to medium-high heat. Pour enough olive oil into your skillet so that it completely covers the pan’s surface — then add a little more. Once the oil is hot (give or take 5 minutes), transfer the tofu slabs to the skillet one at a time. Place the slabs so they do not touch one another.
4/Using tongs, gently lift one tofu slab to see if it’s golden brown. Once you reach this stage, flip all tofu slabs over and continue to fry until the edges are golden brown
Note: You may need to add more olive oil to the skillet once the slabs are flipped.
5/Transfer the fried tofu slabs onto a paper-towel covered plate. The paper towel will help to soak up excess oil. Let sit for five minutes before serving.

Preparation: Spicy Fries

1/Nugget potatoes, rinsed in cold water and cut in rondelles (or preferred shape)
2/Place rondelles on paper-towel covered plate to soak up moisture
3/Line a baking tray with parchment paper
3/Preheat oven to 425F (for the fries)

Ingredients: Spicy Fries

Note: I don’t use a prescribed amount of each ingredient but rather sprinkle enough salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder to coat the potatoes before starting to bake and add a few pinches of salt each time I flip the potatoes. 
Nugget potatoes, medley of red, yellow and/or purple
Olive oil (Note: A mix of olive oil and avocado oil works well too!)
Himalayan pink salt
Cracked ground black pepper
Smoked paprika
Hint of chili powder

Instructions: Spicy Fries

1/Place rondelles on a parchment-paper lined baking tray.
2/Drizzle olive olive over potatoes to coat generously. Sprinkle salt, pepper, smoked paprika and chili powder over potatoes (amount of each to your liking).
3Transfer potatoes to oven. Roast for 20 mins. Remove from oven, flip, and sprinkle a few pinches of salt.
Note: Our family likes a lot of flavour so I’ll usually sprinkle additional paprika, and chili powder each time I flip the potatoes. 
4/Repeat step 3 two more times for a total baking time of approx. 1 hour or until fries or crispy to your liking.

Product Recommendations
Edward & Sons™ Panko
The Ginger People Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce

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