After I learned how to make lemon syrup courtesy of Serious Eats, ideas kept ping-ponging around in my head about how to turn it into a savoury sauce, specifically some kind of lemon sauce to up the flavour ante on pan-fried tofu. This sauce starts out lemony in your mouth and then you’re hit with ginger, chili and a hint of lime. It’s kind of fun to serve because it looks simple but it tastes complex. It’s not complex to make though, but it does need to sit for at least 3 hours and up to 12, so you could get this started in the morning before work, or make it at during your lunch break if you work from home. The pan-fried tofu is made crispy with Panko crumbs, which are bound to the tofu with my favourite new egg white replacer, aquafaba, aka chickpea water.
I paired the tofu and lemon sauce with a side of black rice, but it would be great with all sorts of starches, everything from old school white rice to black bean pasta. If you aren’t vegan this would also make a great sauce for lemon chicken.
For the sauce:
- rinds from 8 lemons (reserve the juice)
- 2 lime leaves julienned
- 6 tablespoons ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 red chilis, chopped finely (remove the seeds if you don’t want it too hot)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
For the tofu:
- 1/2 package of extra-firm tofu (175 grams)
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 8 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea water). For more on aquafaba, see this post.
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup panko crumbs
- coconut oil for frying
- At least 4 hours before you want to eat, combine all of the sauce ingredients except the cornstarch in a non-reactive dish. Cover and let sit for 3 to 12 hours, then strain out the lemon, ginger, etc, leaving just the juice. Add the juice to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of the juice to a measuring cup, then mix in the cornstarch until smooth. Add the juice/cornstarch mixture back to the saucepan and heat and stir until thickened. You can do this ahead of time and reheat it, or if you are about to cook the tofu, turn the heat down to the lowest setting until the tofu is ready.
- About half hour before you are ready to start cooking the tofu, put the aquafaba in a large mixing bowl and using a mixer on high speed, mix it until soft peaks form. Set it aside.
- Squeeze the liquid out of the tofu by pressing it between two plates, with a heavy pan or even a stack of books on top. Slice it into 1/8 inch thick pieces and set aside.
- Get three small bowls: add the lemon juice to one, the aquafaba to another, and about one-third of the Panko to the third bowl. (Don’t add all of the Panko at once or it will start to get soggy, just add more as needed).
- Slice the tofu about 1/8 inch thick pieces. Dip each piece of tofu into the lemon, then the aquafaba, then the Panko crumbs.
- Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frying pan. Add the tofu and fry for about 3 minutes per side, until crunchy and brown.
- To serve, pour the lemon sauce over top.
Let me know what you think!