Sunday, 16 February 2014

Oats-so crispy chilli "KFC" tofu nuggets

Salt and Sichaun pepper tofu bites with a crunchy, chilli-oat crust.
I recently learnt that the Japanese, and pretty much most of Asia, are enamoured with KFC. It's one of the few fast food places in Hong Kong where you can dangerously order delivery (as if popping down to your nearest one would be an absolute waste of calories - save those puppies for the deep fried grease and wonder of that special fried chicken). It's even been engrained into Japanese tradition on Christmas day to queue up for some finger lickin' goodness. For my family, what I find even more bizarre, is Mama Lo's sense of urgency to get some KFC when she comes to London...I quickly refused to treat her to a bargain bucket and pointed her to the direction of Wishbone in Brixton for an assortment of sublime wings and fries.
For the past week, all I had been craving were those zinger tower devil burgers and popcorn chicken. Those damn feel good and 'witty' (even as I write that I know it's not true) ads seemed to have seeped into my brain to give in. And I would not give in.
What it did give me was a bit of inspiration for my own chicken nuggets. I could have given you Panko breadcrumbs and succulent and juicy chicken thighs, but my mind was somehow on another planet. I love salt and pepper squid, but given it was Sunday, I couldn't break into my fishmongers. And out of the larder shone a little box of tofu - and DING! It was time to convert those tofu haters with this recipe. A take on salt and pepper, with a crunchy and spicy coating with a silky smooth, but firm interior. It's a simple recipe, easy to snack on with some sriracha or sweet chilli (and almost so easy you can pop these in your mouth as quick as a packet of crisps).
Anti-tofu goers can't say no to these bad boys.

The coating was a bit of a mouthful to put into the post title. It's made from toasted oats, chilli and Sichuan peppercorns with a sea salt sprinkling. In nugget, popcorn bites. Mouthful. But I did fall in love with this - the toasted oats gives more texture contrast to the tofu, and the Sichuan peppercorns releases a punchy lemon aroma which ties the salt finish together in quite triumphantly.
Bubble away my beauties
Perfect for little starter/side dish, or stays crispy even when cold for a lunch 'al-desko' salad, it's a tried and tested step to introducing non tofu believers that this ingredient isn't just for hippies.
1 pack of firm tofu (350g) cut into bite size nuggets
30 grams of plain oats (or a little Oat so simple packet works well)
3 dried chillies (a tablespoon of dried chilli flakes work too)
1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns
4 tablespoons of cornflour
5 tablespoons of vegetable/groundnut oil
A generous sprinkling of sea salt flakes (such as Maldon)

In a dry frying pan, toast the oats, chillies and peppercorns for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on this, turning regularly until the aroma of the peppercorns comes out and the oats turn a slightly darker colour.
Whizz this in a processor (or bash with a pestle and mortar and cut the chillies up finely) and mix with the cornflour on a plate.
Coat each tofu piece with the dry mix generously. Heat the oil in a wok - test the temperature by dropping an oat in there...if it sizzles quickly then you're ready.
Fry on all sides for about 5 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Place on a kitchen towel to soak up some excess oil and then sprinkle with salt.
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