The inspiration for this dish comes from a traditional Southern specialty known as chicken fried steak. A thin filet of steak is breaded and fried in oil that has been used to cook chicken. Another version of this dish, known as country fried steak, is used with fresh oil. So, perhaps it would be more appropriate to call this country fried tofu because we definitely do not use chicken oil!
To make this even healthier, I usually fry it in olive oil. Though olive oil has a fairly low smoke point, I have always preferred it over peanut and vegetable oils. However, feel free to use your favorite oil for frying as long as it doesn’t have too low a smoke point (like sesame oil).
Because tofu lacks some of the natural flavors and texture of steak, I like to add in many different spices with the panko crust in order to make this protein-rich food delicious! The result involves spices from Cajun and Indian cuisines, so it is fairly spicy. Feel free to tone down the cayenne or hot pepper in favor of oregano or fennel if you aren’t a fan of spicy foods.
Finally, for this dish I use SBP (standard breading procedure), which was taught to me by my lovely mother who also happened to go to culinary school! SBP involves three steps: 1) a flour coat, 2) an egg wash, and 3) the crust. The result is a crispy and flavor-packed crust that won’t just fall off when you start frying it!
Chicken Fried Tofu
Makes 4-5 servings
14 oz of firm or extra-firm tofu block, not cubed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs (plain)
1 tsp ground Indian hot red pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tbs fennel
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
2 tsp kosher salt plus extra to taste
6 tbs olive oil (or low smoking oil of your choice)
First, prepare the tofu for breading. Slice the block into rectangles (about 4 x 2 x 1 inches). Using a clean towel or preferably tons of paper towels (I know, I know super bad for the environment) lay the slices of tofu out and press down carefully to squeeze out all the excess water. You want the slices to be fairly dry, but don’t fret if they stay a little damp because you just need the flour to stick.
Next, station a counter for SBP. On one plate, spread out the flour. In a bowl, scramble the egg. On a second plate or in a large bowl, stir together the panko, hot red pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, fennel, paprika, and kosher salt.
Put 3 tbs of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Slice by slice, cover the dry tofu with the flour (beating the extra off), then soak it in the egg, then cover it with the panko crumbs.
As each slice is breaded, transfer them to a plate or immediately to the skillet if you wish. After a batch or two, you may wish to de-crumb the pan and freshen it with 3 more tbs of olive oil.