- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 2-3
On busy weeknights growing up, pan-fried tofu was high on the list of easy throw-together dinners in my mom’s repertoire. The common Korean dish—slabs of firm seasoned tofu cooked in an oiled pan until golden, then topped with a chunky, scallion-heavy soy sauce—was one she could whip up in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t anything fancy or complicated, but when paired with freshly steamed rice, the savory, sauce-laden tofu made for a dependable, satisfying, and economical meal.
Inspired as much by Japanese agedashi tofu as the homey Korean pan-fried version, I chose to dust the tofu slices in cornstarch before frying them on the pan for a bit more crisp and contrast (land the fried tofu on a wire rack to retain their texture before serving, and hold off on coating the second batch of tofu until right before you cook them). Made from a handful of pantry ingredients, the salty, subtly spicy-and-sweet sauce is the star here, with every spoonful delivering just the “oomph” of flavor the blank canvas of tofu needs. Though it might initially seem like a lot of scallions, they quickly wilt when mixed into the sauce and become delicious vehicles of concentrated flavor (there’s something I love about the contrast of lightly crisp tofu and sauce-soaked scallions in each bite). To serve, slightly overlap the golden tofu slices like leaning dominos on a plate, generously spoon the gochugaru-spiked, sesame seed-flecked sauce on top, and dig in while they’re still fresh, with a bowl of rice on the side.
- Pan-Fried Tofu
1 14- ounces
package firm tofu
- Soy-Scallion Sauce
reduced-sodium soy sauce
roasted white sesame seeds
toasted sesame oil
thinly sliced scallions, from 3 to 4 scallions
Neutral oil, like canola or vegetable, for frying
Steamed rice, for serving
- Remove tofu from packaging, drain the liquid, and cut the block crosswise into 8 even slices, a little less than ½-inch thick. Lay the slices on a large paper towel-lined plate and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels, pressing to remove as much moisture as possible. Salt the tofu on both sides. Place the cornstarch in a shallow dish; set aside.
- Let the tofu rest while you prepare the sauce. In a medium bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients until combined (the scallions will wilt as they sit). Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Pour enough oil into a large 12-inch nonstick skillet to fully coat the bottom of the pan (about 1/3 cup) and heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working quickly with one slice at a time, lightly coat half the slabs of tofu with cornstarch (gently tap to remove excess cornstarch) and carefully place them in the hot pan. Cook, flipping once, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden.
- Transfer the fried tofu to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and repeat the dusting and cooking process with the remaining tofu slices, making sure to add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer the pan-fried tofu to a large plate or serving platter, slightly overlap the slices in two rows, and spoon the sauce on top (start with a few spoonfuls and add more to taste). Serve immediately with rice and remaining sauce on the side.