Crispy fingers of tofu, coated with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven till crisp, these are a kind of vegetarian take on fish or chicken sticks. They are a tasty, easy and family friendly way to serve tofu. Try serving them for dinner with homemade oven fries, a green vegetable and a thick, creamy dip.
If you want the coating to be nice and crunchy, the best crumbs to use are panko bread crumbs. If you don't have panko crumbs, an excellent alternative is crumbs from a very light cracker like Ritz or Tuc. Put the crackers in a ziploc bag, seal and bash with a rolling pin until really fine. It's important that you use a light cracker. Denser crackers will yield a coarser crumb which won't get as crisp when cooked.
Large brick of firm tofu - about 500g or 1 pound. Allow about 100-150g (4-6 ounces) per person
About 1 litre / 4 cups of water
1 egg, beaten
(This helps the crumbs to stick but if you want to keep things vegan, I imagine an egg substitute like Ener-G Egg Replacer could be used here. Haven't tried it though.)
About 1 cup or 100g of breadcrumbs (see note on "The Crispy Coating" above)
Cut the tofu into rectangles. They should measure about 3 x 1 x ½ inch. Place in a single layer in a shallow dish.
Next you need to soak the tofu. It may seem unusual, but adding liquid before baking enhances the flavour and prevents the texture from becoming too dense in the oven.
Boil the water with a generous helping of salt, then pour over the tofu and leave to sit for 15 minutes. I've specified an amount of water above but this is just a guideline. Just remember that it should completely cover the tofu so make sure you use enough water for the amount of tofu you use as well as the size of the dish.
Remove the tofu from the water using a tongs or spatula and gently pat dry. Be careful. The tofu will be a little fragile at this point.
Dip each piece of tofu in the beaten egg, then toss in the breadcrumbs to coat. Place the coated pieces of tofu on an oiled baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 400F/200C. Flip over the pieces and continue to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the tofu is golden and crisp.
I've made versions of this tofu many times but this simplified take was inspired by a cool blog post about frying tofu from Michael at Herbivoracious. I think it's hard to beat this approach when you just want the tofu to be lightly seasoned.
Before trying the "soak in salted water" method, I used to boil the tofu in a broth for about 5 minutes. The downside is that the tofu is a little delicate to handle before baking. The upside is that you'll find that boiling allows flavours to penetrate more deeply which is useful if you want to add particular herbs or spices.
One delicious alternative is simmering the tofu in seasoned tomato juice. Just add a little garlic, salt and pepper some dried herbs, a little sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Let me know if you try others!