In our household, the lifespan of a recipe is often short lived. It gets made. Photographed. Enjoyed. Posted. And soon thereafter, forgotten, set by the wayside for whatever new batch of recipes we’re making the next week. As good as they might have been, we’re just not in the habit of repeating things (such is the life of a food blogger), and most of the recipes I post here share a similar fate.
This recipe, on the other hand, deserves your full and lasting attention. It was a recipe I expected to like; but it wasn’t something I expected to blow me away. I mean it’s pretty simple, just tofu crusted in panko and sesame and lightly fried, with a sweet and salty Vietnamese dipping sauce. But the fact that we’ve made it four times in the past few weeks says a lot about it.
This recipe has a lot of things going for it: it’s healthy, yet still has just enough fried flavor to satisfy your unhealthiest cravings. It’s ridiculously simple, and (assuming you remembered to get your tofu draining beforehand) only takes about 20 minutes to put together. I’d call that a win-win.
But the dipping sauce is what seals the deal. It’s called nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce made from little more than lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and spicy red pepper. If you’ve ever been to a Vietnamese restaurant, this is the sauce they serve with their crispy egg rolls that makes them so irresistible. On it’s own the fish sauce might be repulsive (I can’t stand the smell and make Taylor do that part always), but combined with the other ingredients and splashed on the crispy bites of fried tofu, it’s perfection. Just the right amount of sugar, salt, tang, and spice.
I need more recipes like this one in my life.
Sesame Crusted Tofu
- 1 (16oz) package extra-firm tofu
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- canola oil for frying
- green onions, sliced
For Dipping Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Slice the tofu into half-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a layer of paper towels in a baking dish. Top with more paper towels, then another baking dish and some heavy objects, soup cans, or books. Let sit for at least one hour to allow as much moisture to drain from the tofu as possible.
- While tofu is draining, prepare dipping sauce by combining sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Add more fish sauce, to taste, if desired.
- In a shallow dish, beat the egg 1 teaspoon of water. In another shallow dish, stir together the panko and sesame seeds.
- Working with one piece at a time, dip the tofu into the egg, then dredge it in the sesame-panko mixture until completely coated. Repeat with the remaining slices.
- Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add about 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil, enough to form a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Arrange tofu slices in pan and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to serving dishes; garnish with scallions and serve with dipping sauce.