I was in a weird place this weekend. I didn’t know what I wanted to make for dinner this week and I was having trouble thinking of something different. I wanted to try something new, but I also knew I had a lot of school work to do. Part of me wanted pork steam buns, but I really didn’t want any meat. I decided to try a vegetarian version using tofu instead of pork, but with the same hoisin sauce mix that is just perfect with steam buns.
I started with pickling vegetables – carrots, red onion, cucumber and kale. Wait, kale? Yes, kale. I am still working through the last of the kale from the garden and decided to try picking it. It isn’t bad, but not my first choice.
I did try to make steam buns again, in large part because I can’t find them in a store around here. I used a different recipe than the last time I made them, and refined the steamer just a little. It worked, but the buns didn’t rise the way I wanted them to. I’m getting closer on the buns, but they still aren’t perfect. (Taste was good, but they didn’t rise enough and were pretty dense.)
So tofu. I know what you are thinking – how is this going to work. Soft tofu on a soft bun … the texture should not work. But … cornstarch. Cornstarch is my best friend when it comes to frying tofu. Light coating of cornstarch and into hot oil – the result is a crispy, crunchy tofu with a soft, silky center. And the tofu took the sauce beautifully.
So how did it turn out? I can’t wait to have this tomorrow for lunch. I’m skipping the buns and just using the pickled vegetables with the tofu as a salad. It’s tangy, sweet and really satisfying.
- Vegetables of choice – cut (about 1/4 cup)
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- pinch salt
Mix together vinegar, sugar and salt. Add chopped vegetables and coat. Let sit at least fifteen minutes, up to an hour. If not using in the hour, drain the pickling liquid.
- 8 oz. extra firm tofu, cut and pressed
- 1/4 cup corn starch (probably could use less, but I like to make sure there is enough in one go)
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (or sub whatever soy sauce you have on hand)
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used sherry vinegar because that I what I had, but rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar should do fine too.)
- Mix of sesame and olive oil (about 1 tablespoon sesame and 2 tablespoons olive)
Cut tofu into strips about the size of the buns. Place between paper towels and press for about ten minutes. (I find a baking sheet over the tofu works pretty good)
Mix together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce and vinegar until well combined.
Heat pan with oils over medium high heat until hot enough to crisp the tofu. Toss tofu in corn starch and add to pan. Allow bottom to crisp (don’t turn) for a few minutes until lightly browned. Flip and crisp/brown the other side – about 7 minutes total. Reduce heat to medium and add hoisin sauce mix. Toss tofu in sauce over medium heat until well coated and the sauce begins to thicken, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place one piece of tofu on the bun and top with pickled vegetables of choice.