Fry

Rice Paper Tofu Nuggets

by:
December 14, 2021
0 Stars
Photo by Yi Jun Loh
Author Notes

I have a weakness for bite-size, deep-fried chicken bits. It could be popcorn chicken, the classic McDonald’s nuggets, or even crinkly wads of deep-fried chicken skin that burst in your mouth with a chicken fat intensity no jus can beat. I love them all.

But each time I eat them—whether it’s a spontaneous midday drive-through order of 20 nuggets (all for myself), or an extra portion of fried chicken skin from KFC it’s a thing in their Malaysian branches)—the deep-fried chicken bits leave an oily, slick feeling in my throat, and I’m left chickened out for days after. So I’m always on the lookout for recipes and dishes that have all the characteristics of those deep-fried chicken bits but that I could eat on the daily, and could be made with ingredients I keep at home.

Enter: rice paper nuggets. It’s a dish that I recently stumbled upon, from one of my binge watches of FoodTok videos and Korean ASMR FoodTubers. The basic recipe takes rice paper—thin, translucent, plasticky rice sheets commonly used in Vietnamese spring rolls—and wraps it around a small piece of boneless, skinless chicken. When dropped into hot oil, the rice paper puffs up into these crispy, golden, bubbly morsels within seconds, achieving an almost chicharrón-like airiness. When you pop each one into your mouth, the crispy, puffed rice paper crust will crackle and crunch with each bite, before giving way to the moist chicken within.

The food YouTuber One Meal a Day is often credited as the progenitor of the technique, but many other food creators have re-created the dish, even riffed on it, too—from Emmy Cho from the YouTube channel emmymade, who gave it her oishii stamp of approval, to blogger (and Food52 Resident) WoonHeng’s vegan version using mushrooms in place of the chicken, to my fellow Malaysian food creator Kristin Tan (who goes by @eatwkriss over on Instagram and TikTok) and her crispy rice paper tofu. And after watching and trying out the technique and its many riffs, I’m sold. While it might sound similar to nuggets or popcorn chicken on the outset, thanks to the rice paper crust, it’s crispier, more texturally crackly and fun, and the flavor potential is so much more exciting than fast-food-joint nuggets or popcorn chicken could ever be. —Jun

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • makes 12 pieces
Ingredients
  • 250 grams (8 ounces) firm tofu
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 rice paper sheets/spring roll wrappers (preferably the circular type, at least 22 centimeters/8.5 inches in diameter)
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable oil, peanut oil, or any other neutral oil, for frying
  • Ketchup, Thai chile sauce, or your favorite dipping sauce, for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Slice or tear the tofu into 12 even pieces, then give them a light squeeze to remove any excess water. Transfer the tofu into a medium bowl and add the garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and black pepper. Give it a toss until the tofu pieces are evenly coated. Put the bowl of tofu in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours, to fully absorb the flavors.
  2. When the tofu is done marinating, cut the rice paper sheets in half. Ready a shallow bowl of room temperature water that’s wide enough to dip the rice paper in. Then, working with a half piece of rice paper at a time, dip the rice paper in water until pliable/foldable. Shake to get rid of excess water, then lay it out on a chopping board or work surface. Place one piece of tofu on the bottom end of the rice paper and roll it up tightly in the rice paper, tucking in the sides toward the middle, and making sure the piece of tofu is completely enveloped in the rice paper. Repeat with all the remaining tofu. Discard any remaining marinade.
  3. Pour vegetable oil into a medium heavy-bottom pot over high until the oil reaches 350°F (180°C). (The oil should be at least 4 centimeters/1.5 inches deep. Add more oil if needed.) When the oil comes up to temperature, gently drop a few pieces of the wrapped tofu into the oil and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until the rice paper wrapping has a golden blush to it. Make sure not to overcrowd the pot, as the pieces tend to stick together.
  4. When the tofu pieces are done, remove them from the oil onto a wire rack and let them cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat until all the tofu is fried.
  5. The tofu is best eaten within minutes out of the fryer. Serve the nuggest plain, or dunk them in ketchup, Thai chile sauce, and/or your favorite dip.

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