There are a few things I miss from my carnivorous days. Orange chicken is one. I love the tangy orange sauce clinging to the deep fried batter surrounding luscious tender chicken pieces.
Now, as a vegetarian, I’m always searching for recipes that fulfill those cravings but don’t make me feel like my food is ‘less than’. If you start feeling like you’re eating second rate, that’s when you fall off the vegetarian wagon.
Unless you’re eating a plain steak, pork chop, or turkey slice, most meat dishes use meat as a foundation – the majority of taste coming from sauce, spices, and toppings. Using that knowledge, my challenge is to find a substitute that allows the essence of the original. Sometimes I use imitation meats (such as fake sausage, hot dogs, and chicken), and sometimes I find a similarly textured food (such as jack fruit in place of pulled pork).
In the case of Orange Tofu, I’m not trying to fool anyone – clearly, this is tofu, not chicken. My very first blogpost was THE ORANGE CHICKEN DILEMMA, in which I use imitation chicken (or turkey) to give the texture of the real thing.
However, there are people out there concerned about using imitation products. “What’s in it?” is a common question. While my family prefers Orange “Chicken” (quotation marks denote “fake”), I decided to make an Orange Tofu for those leery of faux foods.
So, donning my lab coat, I began to experiment with tofu. What I found was the longer you cook it, the more rubbery it becomes. Unfortunately, this rules out batter dipped deep frying because of the time it takes to get that golden brown crispy coat. Rather, a quick fry in a teeny bit of oil on a nonstick skillet worked best for taste. I will grant you, it doesn’t look as pretty as the deep fried version, but it’s delicious. (And your arteries will thank you!)
ORANGE TOFU – makes about 3 servings
- 1 block of tofu, extra firm
- 4 T fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 T rice wine vinegar
- 2 T lemon juice
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 T orange zest, packed (don’t be stingy!)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1½ T cornstarch
- 1 T water
Remove tofu from package and press with heavy plate for 1/2 hour to remove water.
Meanwhile, prepare orange sauce. In a small saucepan bring the orange juice, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, zest, sugar, ginger, and garlic powder to a boil. In a small bowl blend together the cornstarch and 1 T water until smooth. Slowly stream it into the boiling orange juice mixture, stirring as you pour, until sauce is thickened.
NOTE: As Queen of Freeze, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you this orange sauce freezes well. So, if you like it, double or triple the recipe next time and freeze in portion sized containers for future use.
Slice tofu into pieces 3/8″ in width. Heat about 1/2 T oil in a nonstick skillet. Fry tofu a couple of minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Be careful of oil spatter! If you don’t have a nonstick skillet, use a regular one and increase the amount of oil. Drain on paper towel.
Serve tofu on sticky rice, topped with orange sauce.