Orange Tofu with Sesame Vegetables

I’ve had such a craving for orange tofu lately! When I became a vegetarian almost 20 years ago, there were very few things I had trouble giving up – but one of those things was orange chicken. That aromatic, sweet-but-savory dish just stuck with me long after I no longer ate chicken. Then I went to a (sadly, now-closed) vegetarian Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond called Panda Veg, and had the best orange tofu ever! That, along with some health issues, set me on the path to find my own orange tofu recipe!

Paired with sesame oil-drizzled vegetables, this meal can be made quickly, or with additional steps, if you have the extra time. And of course, the sauce can be used on chicken as well, if you have some non-vegetarians at home like I do!

Ingredients

For the orange tofu

  • 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed, or chicken
  • zest of one orange (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 green onions
  • 1-3 ancho chiles, dried, depending on your spice preference (I had these because used these to make the salsa de Chamoy in my Mexican fruit tacos recipe, but if you don’t have any substitute red pepper flakes)
  • optional: sesame seeds for drizzling

For the sesame vegetables

  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 head bok choy
  • 1/2 cup matchstick carrots
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

  1. Press your tofu to remove all of the excess water. To press the tofu, remove it from a package and wrap it in a clean towel, then place it on a baking sheet. Put something heavy on top, like a skillet, on top. Leave for 15 minutes or so, changing out the towel if it becomes soaked. I find I usually need to change the towel at least once.
  2. While the tofu is pressing, prepare the orange sauce. Grate the ginger and zest the lemon, and juice the oranges. (If you juice the oranges yourself, 1 cup is probably 4-5 oranges. If using store-bought orange juice, low pulp or pulp free is best.)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ginger, orange zest, orange juice, rice vinegar, green onions and soy sauce. If using whole ancho chiles, tear off the stems and break them apart with your hands to release the seeds, then add the whole broken pepper, seeds and all, into your sauce. If using red pepper flakes, season to taste.
  4. Cut the pressed tofu into one-inch cubes. Optional tofu step: If you have time, preheat your oven to 400 and spread parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the tofu cubes out and bake for 30-35 minutes for extra crispness. I can’t take credit for this idea, as it comes from the amazing Minimalist Baker. Again, this is an optional step but if you can work it on, it makes your tofu much more sturdy and flavorful.

Notice the difference between the uncookedx(top photo) and cooked tofu (bottom photo)? The cubes are firmer and have a nice crispy texture.

5. Toss your sauce and tofu together to coat fully. Preheat a wok or skillet to medium-high heat and coat with a light layer of oil (I used vegetable, but any light flavor cooking oil will do.) Once heated, stir fry the tofu until it is heated through and the sauce thickens. Serve immediately.

For the vegetables:

  1. Clean and de-stem the green beans and bok choy.
  2. Combine bok choy, carrots, and green beans in a large skillet with the vegetable broth, then heat to medium-high heat.
  3. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables have absorbed much of the broth and become tender but not soggy. Drain any remaining broth, then drizzle with the sesame oil.  Cook for another minute, then remove from heat and serve, topping with sesame seeds if desired.

Who needs takeout? Not me! This meal comes together in about 30 minutes, including pressing the tofu. If you’re really pressed for time, you can make the sauce and combine it with the tofu a day before, then do the final steps of cooking in the wok and making the vegetables right before eating. If you’re really looking for a filling meal or want to stretch your protein further, serve it over your favorite rice for a budget-friendly meal.

Have a great week, RWC! Enjoy these last few weeks of summer!

-Amy

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