Summer Dinners: Thai Slaw and Crispy Pan Fried Tofu

Note:  This is an old blog post from last year that I forgot to publish until now:

Thai Slaw is the perfect dish to bring to a picnic.  It’s full of fresh crunchy veggies like cabbage and carrots but is also zingy and hearty from the peanut sauce.  For complete disclosure, I had actually meant to make this dish for a picnic on Angel Island but I didn’t wake up early enough to make this salad and catch a 9:30 am ferry (it was a Saturday morning).

Instead of eating this at a picnic, I converted this to a light dinner by serving it with thin slabs of crispy tofu which I topped with a little sheen of hoisin sauce.  While you often expect fried tofu to be heavily sauced, I was surprised at how much I liked the fried tofu plain.  As I was frying batches of tofu, I found myself nibbling on the plain fried tofu enjoying it thoroughly.  The fried tofu would be excellent with a light tempura dipping sauce.  In all, this is a healthy, delicious meal to bring to the table fast.

There might be some days where you want to make unhealthy takeout style food at home.  This tofu would be the PERFECT base for “orange tofu” or any other Chinese-American “sauce covering fried nuggets” type dish.  I haven’t tried it yet but for the time when I want something unhealthy, it is on my list.

Thai Slaw Adapted from Elizabeth Rider

Serves 4-6 people

If you’re planning on making this, (which  you should because it is easy and delicious), I would recommend visiting Elizabeth Rider’s site as the original recipe is awesome and she has some great technique videos.  My adaptations are based largely on what I already had in my pantry or fridge or appliance collection.

Cooking Notes:  I used a microplane to grate the garlic, ginger and jalapeno.  I also made the sauce before prepping the veggies so the flavors in the sauce had time to mingle with each other.


  • 4 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 6 scallions (1 bunch) sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/3 cup mint chopped or torn


  • 2 Tbs tamari
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup
  • 3 Tbs smooth peanut butter (I used a natural peanut butter where the oil and solids can separate)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • 1 inch piece of ginger grated
  • 1 tsp grated japaleno (1/2-1 inch from the bottom)

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce.  It may look a little clumpy, especially with fresh peanut butter but keep mixing until it comes together.

After prepping the veggies, toss the cabbage, bell pepper, carrots and scallions together in a large bowl.  Rewhisk the sauce, pour it over the veggies and toss until everything is well mixed together.

Fried Tofu

Serves 3

I had remembered reading in several recipes to dredge tofu in corn starch before pan frying so I tried it out.  Kitchn has a more detailed technique which is I highly recommend reading through.

  • 8 oz block of firm or extra firm tofu (I used a block of Wildwood)
  • 1/3 cup corn starch for dredging the tofu
  • vegetable oil (or another mild oil with a high smoke point) for pan frying
  • 2 Tbs Hoisin sauce

Slice tofu into thin slabs.  Mine were about 1/3 inch by 1 inch by 2.5 inches.  This gives more surface area for crispiness.  Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Pour ~3 Tbsp oil into a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Add the corn starch to a medium-sized plate.  Dredge the tofu in the corn starch so it is lightly coated on all sides with corn starch.

Working in batches and adding more oil as necessary, pan-fry the tofu over medium to medium high heat.  Flip over the pieces when a solid crispy crust has formed on the tofu and is very lightly golden (it will not form a rich golden or red-gold crust).  It should take about 3-4 minutes on each side.  After removing from the heat, lay out on plates lined with paper towels to soak up extra oil.

Brush the top of each tofu piece lightly with hoisin sauce.  Divide into 3 servings and serve with a hearty scoop of slaw on the side.  Serve immediately.