Fried food + spicy sauce = magic. Although I love all vegan foods fried, my favorite thing to fry is plain tofu coated in cornstarch that’s been dredged first in an Ener-G and water slurry. Once placed into oil to fry, the edges become perfectly crisp and sharp, as if they’ve been starched and ironed (and I guess they have been, in a way). It looks beautiful and tastes amazing.
Last year and again this year, a friend of mine gave me several pounds of fresh hot habanero peppers from her father’s garden (yes, pounds). I used them to make a batch of homemade sriracha like I did last year, and it’s currently been marinating on my counter for the past week. I reserved a few extra peppers this year, and made a thai sweet chili sauce with one of them. Although you can buy this sauce prepared in a bottle, this made-from-scratch version is simple to make in minutes, contains no additives or preservatives and tastes really fresh and vibrant. I made the heat level in this batch pretty intense (fresh-from-the-garden habaneros are hot!), but you can adjust the spice level any way you want, using any type or amount of hot sauce.
for the sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 TB sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 TB sambal oelek (more or less, to taste)
very finely minced fresh hot pepper, to taste (optional)
1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 1 TB cold water
for the tofu
1 block of firm tofu (no need to press it)
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB cold water
3/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil, for frying
Place the first four sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the garlic, sambal, fresh hot pepper (if using) and allow to simmer for about a minute. Give it a taste, adjusting any of the flavors as needed. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes to slightly reduce. Then add in the cornstarch/water mixture and whisk until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Cut the tofu block in half and then those halves into halves. Then cut the pieces into right-angle triangles. Set aside.
In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil (enough to submerge the triangles in) over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, test the oil’s readiness by inserting a wooden spoon into the pot—if bubbles immediately form around the spoon, the oil is ready.
Dip the tofu triangles into the Ener-G mixture, and then coat it in some of the cornstarch, making sure all sides are covered and tapping off any excess. Place the triangles, two at a time, into the oil and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Make sure that they do not touch each other or stick to the bottom of the pan by using heat-resistant tongs to move them as needed. Carefully remove from the pot and place on paper towels to drain.
Serve immediately with the thai sweet chili sauce.