Recently, I found myself absolutely hankering for a big old plate of sweet and sour from my local Chinese takeaway. I’d have been willing to walk to the shop on my hands to get it, and rush home clutching it in my flailing feet. The stumbling block (the acrobatics would clearly have been a breeze) was that I don’t eat animal products, and the only offerings contained a heavy-handed helping of either chicken or, to really mix it up, pork.
I spent a surprisingly minimal amount of time sulking about this, and got to work making my own veganised version. Enter: the perfect ‘fakeaway’. I never expected to use the term “sticky and delicious” in any sort of professional capacity, but the recipe for this sauce really is a perfect replica of the indulgent, syrupy stuff of Chinese takeaway legend. And the tofu in the leading role is wonderfully crispy and crunchy. It’s sticky and delicious, okay? It’s sticky and delicious.
CRISPY SWEET AND SOUR TOFU
You Will Need:
1 block firm tofu
2 medium carrots
1 green pepper
1 small white onion
2 cloves garlic
Sesame seeds (optional)
For the sauce:
Brown cane sugar – ¼ cup
Apple cider vinegar – 2 tbsp
Tomato Purée – 1 ½ tbsp
Cornflour – 1 tbsp (+ 1 cup for tofu)
Sunflower oil – 1 tbsp (plus more for frying)
Water – ½ cup
Soy sauce (or Tamari for GF) – ½ tbsp
- Drain your tofu. If you need to, press it by placing a plate and heavy object on top of it (like a saucepan) for about half an hour.
- When your tofu is ready, cut it into small-ish cubes, like shown.
- Place the tofu cubes into a bowl and coat with some soy sauce and apple cider vinegar (about a tbsp each). Cover the bowl and set it aside for at least 10 minutes.
- Chop the carrots, green pepper and onion into cubes a similar size to the tofu. Mince the garlic.
- Heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to soften for a minute or two, before adding the rest of the vegetables. Stir fry for about 5 minutes (stir regularly to stop it catching), until just cooked through then set aside for later.
- Fill a bowl with cornflour ( you’ll need about 1-2 cups worth). Roll your tofu cubes in the cornflour until all sides are coated.
- Heat a generous amount of sunflower oil (2-3 tbsp) in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, drop the coated tofu cubes in. Turn the cubes over as they get golden brown, until they are crisp on each side. Don’t overcrowd your pan – cook in batches if you have to.
- Remove the tofu from the pan and place onto a plate lined with kitchen roll to remove excess oil. Place to the side with your cooked veg.
- To a saucepan, add all of the ingredients for your sweet and sour sauce. Mix all the ingredients together then stir over a medium heat. When the sauce starts to thicken (thanks, cornflour!), turn the heat down low. Stir almost constantly throughout to help it thicken and stop it catching. Cook for between 5-10 minutes (it’s up to you how thick you’d like it to be – cooking for longer = a thicker sauce)
- When you are happy with the consistency of your sauce, add the vegetables and cook for another minute or two. Finally, add the tofu to the saucepan just long enough to coat it in the sauce, then remove from the heat.
- Serve up with rice, noodles, or all alone. I like to garnish with sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Note: I’d strongly recommend serving this up immediately. However, it will keep for a day or two in the fridge if you really want to have leftovers – heat it up in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water, and serve piping hot. Just don’t expect it to make for a particularly classy fine-dining experience. Look at that: slightly disappointing yet irresistible leftovers – just one more way in which this recipe replicates the quintessential takeaway experience.