Dinner for One
I enjoy cooking for others, and I rarely go to much trouble on the rare occasions when I’m on my own for dinner. Last night, however, I went to a small bit of trouble and treated myself to a dish I’d been creating in my head for a couple of weeks: Yin & Yang Tofu.
I’d gotten the idea from a strange source, a mystery novel I picked up while on vacation called The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey. Well, it was supposed to be a mystery, but to me it was all about food! Much of the action takes place in an Asian fusion restaurant in Washington, DC, and every time the discussion turned to food, I couldn’t help thinking, “How can I veganize that?” There was a brief mention of a dish called Yin & Yang Shrimp–shrimp covered on one side in black sesame seeds and on the other with white, hence the name–and I could hardly focus on the rest of the book for trying to work out how, exactly, I was going to make this with tofu.
It turns out it wasn’t too hard. I marinated the tofu, dredged each side in the different colored sesame seeds, and then tried to pan fry it. This attempt was a failure. The sesame seeds didn’t stick, and the tofu didn’t firm up to the proper dipping consistency; it remained disappointingly flaccid, the sesame seeds falling off as I attempted to maneuver it into the dipping sauce. My second attempt worked out much better:
Yin & Yang Tofu
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. mirin
- 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 8 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 2 inch long x 1 inch wide x 1/2 inch thick strips
- black sesame seeds
- white sesame seeds
- more cornstarch
- Mix the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and 1 tsp. cornstarch together. Add the sliced tofu and marinate for as long as you can, rearranging as necessary so that all surfaces of the tofu come in contact with the marinade. The longer you marinate the greater the flavor, but if you have only 15 minutes, that’s fine.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Oil a non-stick cookie sheet. Put some black sesame seeds on one plate and white in the other and add cornstarch to each. (Sorry, I didn’t measure here, but I’m guessing it was 1/4 cup seeds to 2 tsp. cornstarch.)
- Drain the tofu. Carefully dredge one side of the tofu in the black sesame seeds, turn it over, and dredge the other in the white. Do this carefully so that your seeds don’t fall off and become mixed. (A much easier solution is to do half the pieces in white and half in black.) Place each piece on the cookie sheet. Spray the tops lightly with oil, and then bake for 15 minutes. Turn carefully and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until browned on the sides. Allow them to cool before eating with dipping sauce.
Total time (duration): 50 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 2
I served them with two sauces. My overwhelming favorite was the Miang Kum sauce from a few nights ago (yes, I’m still obsessed with that sauce!) It was just the perfect combination of coconut sweetness and tamarind tartness. I also made a new sauce, which was good and very easy to make:
Apricot Duck Sauce
- 1/4 cup all-fruit apricot preserves
- 1/8 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp. grated peeled ginger
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped green onion
- Mix the first 4 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add chopped green onion and serve when cool.
Cooking time (duration): 5 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 6
Along with the tofu, I served (myself) Mung Bean Sprout Salad, but I cut the recipe in half and added a generous amount of cayenne pepper. Yes, when eating alone I can spice to my heart’s content!
The tofu was good, and it was even better, cold, as breakfast this morning. But it wasn’t that much better than regular baked tofu, so I doubt I’ll go through the trouble again. But I will pick up another of Sujata Massey’s novels. I hear the earlier ones are set in Japan, so I expect to be salivating my way through them, too.