When I was growing up, tofu was a weeknight staple on our dinner table, served in stir-fries and soups, stuffed into fish cakes, or fried. In my household, which is vegetarian, it’s our main source of protein, used in dishes from all cuisines—from a turmeric-accented tofu scramble for tacos to a vegan palak paneer-style dish using pan-fried tofu in place of cheese.
This recipe is a riff on a Chinese American classic, sesame chicken. Achieving a crispy coating around the tofu is key—it adds to the overall texture of the finished dish. After trying several types of flours and starches, I found that cornstarch provides the ideal level of crunch while retaining some crispiness even after soaking up sauce. Those familiar with sesame chicken might know that the “sesame” component is sometimes limited to a ceremonial scattering of seeds on top. This version, however, ups the sesame game by incorporating an untraditional but logical addition: tahini! Made of ground sesame seeds, it adds a delicious richness.
This method of pan-frying tofu is also excellent for those who love salt and pepper tofu: All you need to do is to sprinkle this salt and pepper mix over your crispy tofu: ½ tsp. sugar, ½ tsp. freshly ground white pepper, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. five-spice powder, and 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt. —Hetty McKinnon