Orange Tofu

Perhaps the most unique of what I call the elite five; orange tofu holds a place all its own in the mix. Unlike general tso’s, kung pao, sesame, and mongolian, it is the only dish in this group of mine that makes use of any type of fruit, and not just as a part of the sauce but truly the star of it.

As is the case with all these “American Chinese” dishes, they tend to be less spicy and more sweet than their equivalent true “Chinese” counterparts, for those that even have them. Along with sesame, it’s among the lighter of the dishes, perhaps even the lightest as it typically lacks the namesake sesame oil of sesame dishes that imparts that rich, unique, umami-like flavor. But it carries with it a brightness unlike any of the others.

While it isn’t the simplest of them all — an accolade that goes to the mongolian dish — it is typically served on its own without any added veggies, perhaps just some green onions as garnish, along with some orange zest to further punctuate the namesake flavor or even an orange slice for good looks and a squeeze of fresh juice.

As is the case with every one of my Chinese recipes, you can certainly whip this up with plain tofu – drain it, cut it up into bite size pieces, sauté it in some oil and add the sauce. But I will never not recommend you take the extra work and make my ______ tofu; it gives some extra texture and also something more for the sauce to absorb into, making it all the more like the takeout experience we all long for.

Orange Tofu

Ingredients
  

  • 14 oz extra firm tofu drained / pressed
  • 1 cup orange juice freshly squeezed for best flavor
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes optional, for a spicy kick

Instructions
 

  • Combine Liquid Ingredients: In a saucepan, mix together the orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir well until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
  • Add Aromatics: Incorporate the orange zest, minced garlic, and minced ginger into the saucepan. This adds depth to the flavor.
  • Heat the Mixture: Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Prepare the Cornstarch Slurry: In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. This slurry will thicken the sauce.
  • Thicken the Sauce: While the sauce mixture is simmering, slowly pour in the cornstarch slurry, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the sauce thickens and becomes glossy, which should take about 2-3 minutes.
  • Finish with Sesame Oil: Stir in the sesame oil and, if using, the red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
  • Adjust Seasonings: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You might want to add more sugar for sweetness or vinegar for extra tang.
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