Joanne Molinaro, a.k.a The Korean Vegan is a Korean American woman, born in Chicago, Illinois. With over 4 million fans spread across her social media platforms, she is a New York Times best-selling author whose debut cookbook was selected as one of “The Best Cookbooks of 2021” by The New York Times and The New Yorker among others.
Why Did I Veganize This Dish?
I came up with this Spicy & Crunchy Garlic Tofu recipe because it needed to happen. Like, there was a gaping maw in the universe that could only be filled once this recipe was created.
Ok, putting to one side my illusions of grandeur, let’s just say that this recipe was borne out of nostalgia. Growing up, my family and I would go to this Korean-Chinese restaurant in K-Town called Great Seas. Great Seas was absolutely famous for its chicken wings, or Kkanpoongi. Their walls were covered in photos of happy dinners who set and broke the “how many wings can you eat in one sitting” challenge, and it was no secret why. Their sauce was so good, it was jarred, labeled, and sold by the gallon. My family would go to Great Seas for all sorts of special occasions—birthdays, graduations, the day after a juice fast. When I went vegan, I knew I would basically never be able to eat anything at Great Seas again, so I set out to veganize it. And boy, was I ELATED with the results!
Put simply, this is literally the BEST EVER tofu recipe I’ve ever made and I’m pretty sure it’ll be the same for you!
My Tricks For Making This Recipe
- Make sure to press your extra firm tofu to remove excess liquid. This will ensure your tofu chunks are nice and crunchy.
- Use potato starch in lieu of corn starch or flour to not only keep this dish gluten free, but to make your tofu extra crispy.
- Use my favorite gluten free soy sauce in order to keep this entire recipe gluten free!
- Use vegetable oil in lieu of extra virgin olive oil in order to ratchet up the heat.
- Make sure not to allow the crunchy tofu bites to sit in the sauce too long before serving—the longer they sit in the sauce, the softer they will become.
- Serve with rice and water—this dish is SPICY!!
- 1 16 oz block extra firm tofu, pressed and chopped into 1/2 inch bite sized chunks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons potato starch, plus 1 extra teaspoon
- 7 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 red onion, diced
- 2 Korean green chilis, sliced (can substitute seeded jalapenos)
- 2 scallions, white parts chopped, green parts sliced on a bias
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon mirin (can omit)
- 4 + 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/8 cup dried red chilis (can omit)
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- To a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of potato starch to tofu chunks. Gently toss the tofu to make sure they are all evenly coated. Set aside.
- Prep your vegetables by mincing the garlic, dicing the onion, slicing the Korean chilis, and chopping up the scallions.
- Prepare the sauce by mixing together gochugaru, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, maple syrup, mirin, and 1 teaspoon of potato starch. Set aside.
- To a very large non-stick pan, add 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat. When oil is very hot, add coated tofu chunks in one layer,making sure they are not touching each other. If they touch, they will stick to one another.
- Cook the tofu and flip them one by one, until they are brown on all sides (approximately 7 minutes). Remove the tofu chunks from the pan and set them aside on a cooling rack to drain the excess oil. Repeat with the remaining tofu.
- When all of the tofu has been fried, in the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Then add the garlic, onions, chilis, and scallions and saute the vegetables until the garlic starts to brown.
- Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the sauce, stirring it with a wooden spoon until it reduces down into a thick sauce (approximately 30 seconds). Turn off the heat.
- Gently add back the fried tofu and stir everything together, so that the tofu chunks are evenly coated in your sauce.
- Garnish the tofu with ½ tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Find Molinaro’s Kkanpoong Tofu Recipe and more on TheKoreaVegan.com.