After the decadence of my previous post, I felt like we could do with a big bowl of veggies and some faux-fried bit of protein. After all, one cannot subsist on fried burrata alone. But although my brain is happy to load up on some vitamin D and C via bright and fresh produce, my palette is not always down with this plan. I’ve been craving fried food hard. And it’s not that surprising. It’s a well-established pattern. Once I reach the middle of February, my mind turns to chocolate, candy, and fried foods. I think it’s all Valentine’s Day’s doing, personally. But I consider today’s Oven-Fried Tofu Bowls to be an antidote to these less-than-virtuous cravings. It’s a compromise in a bowl, but I promise it tastes a lot better than that sounds.
I never subscribe to restrictive diets. I know I would never last long. Diets tend to set me up for a big fall because the moment I let go of even the smallest shred of their structure, the whole thing falls apart. I eat my weight in gummy bears or some other counterproductive nonsense. What I have found works is sort of a dietary compromise. I want Korean fried chicken on a near-daily basis. I can’t possibly have Korean fried chicken on a daily basis, so I give my palette the funky/salty/sweet sauce it loves on pieces of oven-fried tofu.
Now, are these Oven-Fried Tofu Bowls as good as Korean fried chicken? Well, I’m not going to lie to you. Oven-fried tofu, unsurprisingly, doesn’t hold a candle to crispy, juicy fried chicken. But the tofu still tastes, like, really good. And it’s pretty effective at scratching the fried-chicken-itch. And while oven-fried tofu may not be high on the list of your nutritionist’s approved foods, it and its sauce are balanced out by tons of fresh veggies, brown rice, and microgreens.
I feel like this is a good time to reiterate how much this blog is not a haven for nutrition advice or even “healthy” recipes. This blog is more about loving food and challenging yourself in the kitchen. Some of the meals here are healthy because contrary to popular belief a lot of healthy meals are also delicious. But they weren’t designed specifically to be healthy. They were designed to bring joy. My aim with the recipes I put here is not to help you negotiate your way into a bikini this summer. It’s to get you to view food as a way to enhance your everyday experience. To surprise yourself in the kitchen and treat meal times as mini getaways, celebrations, and/or parties. So with these Oven-Fried Tofu Bowls, deliciousness was my top priority. I’m not here to get you the delts of your dreams.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about these Oven-Fried Tofu Bowls in all their nutritionally imperfect glory. These bowls start with a marinade of sorts. It’s not technically a marinade because the tofu only hangs out in there for a bit. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to marinate tofu endlessly. Tofu is a lot like a sponge, it takes up whatever it comes into contact with very quickly. The marinade is a simple concoction of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil. There will be a fair amount of the marinade left in the bowl after you remove the tofu. But don’t worry, we’re going to use it to season our rice later on.
Once the tofu has soaked for a bit, it’s simply a matter of breading it. The tofu is first rolled in potato starch. If you don’t have potato starch handy, you can use cornstarch instead. I prefer potato starch because I think it has a crispier finish. After the tofu’s starch bath, it takes a dip in some beaten eggs. Then it’s a quick roll in panko breadcrumbs. To ensure extra crispiness, drizzle the tofu with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt before placing it in the oven.
While the tofu is in the oven, you can prep the veggies and whisk up the sauce. Now, obviously, you can use any veggies you wish for your bowl. I opted for cucumbers, kimchi, avocado, mustard microgreens, and red cabbage along with carrot ribbons and edamame dressed with sesame oil and sea salt. The rice you use is totally up to you as well. Or really, you could use any grain you fancy. I went with brown basmati because it is my favorite brown rice but don’t let my choice influence you.
The finishing sauce is a gochujang heavy affair with rice wine vinegar and honey for a sweet and sour vibe. I could drink it with a straw. This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce and you may think you won’t need it all. But trust me, you will need it. I try to factor double-dips into all of my sauce recipes. I think it’s important to be realistic about the average person’s sauce needs.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Oven-Fried Tofu Bowls. Fresh, crispy, saucy, and deeply satisfying, these bowls may not be Korean fried chicken but they’re close enough.
Oven-Fried Tofu Bowls with Gochujang Sauce
- 1 medium-sized baking sheet
- 1 small saucepan
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 4 tsp sesame oil divided
- 2 scallions finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp ginger grated
- 1 brick tofu sliced
- ½ cup potato starch **
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 small carrots cut into ribbons
- 1½ cups frozen edamame
- ½ tsp sea salt divided
- 1 cup kimchi
- ¼ head red cabbage shredded
- 4 Persian cucumbers sliced
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
- 4 cups cooked brown rice hot
Gochujang Sauce ***
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp gochujang heaping
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp gochugaru optional
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
- handful mustard microgreens
For the Gochujang Sauce
- Place all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Chill until ready to serve.¼ cup honey, 2 tbsp gochujang, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp gochugaru
For the Tofu Bowls
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the soy sauce, honey, scallions, garlic, ginger, and 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil. Place the tofu in a wide, shallow vessel and pour the mixture over top. Potato the tofu pieces in the soy sauce mixture until evenly coated. Set it aside to soak for 15 minutes at room temperature.¼ cup soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey, 4 tsp sesame oil, 2 scallions, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp ginger, 1 brick tofu
- Working with a piece of tofu at a time, roll the tofu in the potato starch, then dip it in the egg, before finally rolling it in the panko breadcrumbs. Place the breaded tofu pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the tofu is breaded.½ cup potato starch **, 2 large eggs, 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- Drizzle the tofu with the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with some salt. Place the tofu in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through.2 tbsp olive oil
- Pour the edamame into a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes before draining. Transfer the edamame to a bowl and sprinkle with half of the salt and a teaspoon of the remaining sesame oil.4 tsp sesame oil, 1½ cups frozen edamame, ½ tsp sea salt
- Place the carrot ribbon in a separate bowl. Add the remaining salt and sesame oil and toss to coat. Set it aside.4 tsp sesame oil, 3 small carrots, ½ tsp sea salt
- Spoon rice into four bowls and top the rice with the reserved marinade. Top with the carrot ribbons, edamame, kimchi, red cabbage, cucumber slices, 2-4 avocado wedges, and 2-3 pieces of tofu. Spoon the gochujang sauce over the tofu and garnish with the sesame seeds, micro greens, and scallions. Serve immediately.¼ head red cabbage, 4 Persian cucumbers, 1 avocado, 4 cups cooked brown rice, 1 scallion, 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 tbsp black sesame seeds, handful mustard microgreens, 1 cup kimchi