Monday, January 31, 2011

January 23, 2011: Tofu Chicharrones

When we first grabbed our copy of Viva Vegan, we fell in love, going on a Latin-themed recipe binge. In recent weeks, our wandering eyes have been caught by some of Ottolenghi's delights, but Viva Vegan remains a strong contender for our most exciting cookbook. So, with Mike and Jo swinging by for a post-Black Swan dinner and Cindy keen to make more tortillas, it was time for another visit.

Checking over Terry's recommended taco fillings, we returned to the silverbeet with raisins and capers and teamed them with tofu chicharrones. Anyone with detailed knowledge of Latin American cuisine will realise that chicharrones are typically crispy pork pieces. This is the Viva Vegan attempt to make something that will do the same job, but with tofu instead of pork. Let's be clear: this tofu will probably not convince any pork-mad meat-eater that it can fulfil all their porky dreams. Having said that, it's hard to imagine anyone not loving these crispy, oily, smoky little bites stuffed inside some fresh-made tortillas. They're pretty great. They're basically little bites of delicious junk food, and combining them with something healthy like the silverbeet was a very smart move.

The chicharrones are pretty simple to make, with the issue being more about preparation time required for freezing, thawing and pressing the tofu rather than anything really labour intensive. This is the first time we've ever frozen and then defrosted tofu and it definitely changes the texture, making it a bit chewier and much more sponge-like at soaking up marinade. They were so absorbent, that I ended up upping the amount of marinade to make sure there was enough to soak into all the little tofu pieces.

Tofu chicharrones 
(from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan)

500g firm tofu
5 tablespoons tamari
1.5 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons agave syrup
peanut oil

Freeze the tofu overnight and then thaw in the morning (if you stick it in some warm water, it will thaw fairly quickly).

When it's thawed, slice it into 1cm thick rectangles, and press the moisture out (I started doing this properly, with the paper towels and the heavy objects, but ended up being more successful just squeezing each piece between the palms of my hands). The amount of liquid that comes out will depend on the kind of tofu you use, but you want to get as much out as possible (the more liquid that comes out, the more marinade-absorbent the tofu will be).

Combine the tamari, liquid smoke, agave syrup, garlic and red wine vinegar in a bowl and whisk together. This is your marinade.

Tear the tofu rectangles up into little chunks - roughly 1cm*1cm*1cm. Do this as roughly and imprecisely as you like.

Pop the tofu pieces in large flat container and pour the marinade over, smooshing everything together so that all the tofu pieces get their fair share of deliciousness. Leave for 10 or 15 minutes, occasionally stirring things around to make sure everything is coated in marinade.

In a frying pan, heat a 1cm layer of peanut oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place a layer of the tofu pieces in it and fry them, turning every minute or two so that each side gets a sizzle. Once the little pieces have browned up nicely and started to go crispy on the edges, take them out and press them in some paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

Repeat with the remaining tofu pieces and serve.


  1. did you like black swan? and nom. I still havent got this book. I should. ok I am.

  2. You have inspired me to give the Chicharrones a go this week, in fact I just went out and bought more tofu which has gone straight into the freezer. Love Viva Vegan but sometimes I don't know what to try next as it all sounds so good!!!

  3. who needs pork when you have tofu! I am not familiar with viva vegan - must look out for it

  4. I LOVE cooking tofu this way! Never thought to use those ingredients as a marinade though, so should give it a go. Normally I just use teriyaki sauce because I'm too lazy hehe.

  5. What is liquid smoke? Sounds amazing.. I love it when bread/tofu/rice (anything really) soaks up all the juices and gravy...

  6. Hey Carla! While Black Swan was pretty cool, it was a bit over the top for me. I prefer my thrillers with suspense and creepy quiet moments; this just seemed to get louder and crazier and LOUDER AND CRAZIER.

    Mel - it's a great book, huh? It's pretty rare that I get this excited over a cookbook with so few pictures. :-)

    Johanna - I'd certainly recommend you browse this book! The author, Terry Hope Romero, is part of the vegan Post Punk Kitchen scene.

    Zo, it's always great to have a lazy option up your sleeve. ;-)

    Hi Ms I-Hua! Check out the wikipedia page for liquid smoke. It's terrific for marinades and you often only need a teeny bit for a lot of flavour.

    Thanks, Elisa! They're very different to the kinds of taco fillings we're accustomed to.