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Author Notes: As a mostly vegetarian with a serious love for Chinese food, I've spent years perfecting my favorite sauce for rice bowls. The thing is, chinese sauces are made for chicken and pork; on tofu, they often fall flat. But when I came across a recipe for Hoisin-Glazed Chicken in a friend's Food Network magazine, everything changed. The recipe was for a marinade, but it came pretty darn close to that perfect balance of sweet and savory that makes Chinese sauces so wonderful. It even called for my beloved, lip-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. Since my ideal Chinese sauce has ma-la qualities, I upped the peppercorns and added a dried Asian chile to the mix. I also reduced the honey. Over crisp-fried tofu and still-crunchy blanched broccoli, nothing tastes better.
Also, a note about light soy sauce. It's lighter than dark soy sauce, and it's traditionally used in marinating. Try to find Pearl River Bridge Superior Light, but if you can't find it, any Chinese light soy sauce will be great. It's not the same thing as low-sodium soy, though that will work in a pinch. Regular soy sauce will be way saltier than Chinese light, so if using that, reduce amount to 3 tablespoons. —Rivka
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 1/4 cup grapeseed or peanut oil
- One 15-oz. block of tofu
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 dried Asian red chile
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup Chinese light soy sauce (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons shao xing
- 2 tablespoons hoisin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 8 ounces broccoli rabe, washed, trimmed, and halved crosswise
- 2 tablespoons crushed toasted peanuts, optional
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Pour the rice into a small pot and cover with 2 cups water.
- Prepare the tofu: Gently squeeze the tofu to release some of its moisture, and lay it on one of its larger sides. Cut the tofu lengthwise into 4 and crosswise into 6. You should be left with 24 rectangular logs of tofu. Pat dry.
- In a large (8-9”) non-stick or cast-iron pan or (even better) a wok, heat the oil until it shimmers. Taking care to protect your arms, add the tofu to the pan in a single layer. It will splatter furiously, but it’ll calm down eventually. If you have a splatter screen, this would be a great time to put it to use.
- Fry that first side of each piece of tofu until golden, 3-4 minutes. Then turn the tofu pieces 180 degrees and fry the bottoms. The sides will gradually crisp up during cooking, but some pieces might need a third flip. When pieces are golden nearly all over, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. The whole thing should take around 10 minutes.(If using a wok, it'll take much shorter.)
- Cook the rice: Set the rice over medium heat and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, cover the pan and transfer the rice to the oven. Set a timer for 17 minutes. When timer goes off, remove rice from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
- Meanwhile, blanch the broccoli: set a saucepan full of water on high heat and bring to a boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook a scant 2 minutes, until bright green and still very crisp. Drain immediately and set aside.
- Finish the sauce: Mix the soy sauce, shao xing, hoisin, and honey in a small bowl. If there’s oil left in the tofu pan, drain all but 1 tablespoon. Heat on high until oil shimmers again. Add star anise, peppercorns, and chile; they should sizzle immediately. Cook 10 seconds, until fragrant, then add scallions, garlic, and cilantro and cook 30 seconds more. Add soy sauce mixture, stir to combine, and cook 2 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Add the tofu back into the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, and let cook for 2 minutes more. Don’t worry: the tofu will stay plenty crisp, but it will absorb the sauce and its flavor. Add blanched broccoli to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, and cook 1 minute more. If you can find the star anise pod, fish it out. Otherwise, warn your eating companion.
- Serve: Portion rice into 2 bowls. Spoon tofu and broccoli over rice, and finish with a few spoonfuls of the reduced sauce and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts, if using. Serve immediately.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Soy