Photos by Emily Caruso
I love remaking restaurant dishes at home, but usually they don’t quite measure up to the original. This Sweet and Sour Baked Tofu? It’s not going to be mistaken for the takeout version. That’s because, in my humble opinion, it’s even better. Yes, I said it! It’s better.
Sweet and Sour Tofu is a dish I frequently order, and then as soon as I take a bite, I instantly regret it. Either the sweet is so sweet that my teeth itch or the sour is so sour that it verges on unpleasantly acidic. The key to a good Sweet and Sour dish is nailing that balance between the two flavors so the end result is neither too cloying nor too sharp.
When I’ve made Sweet and Sour dishes at home in the past, I always used pineapple juice. This time, I selected orange juice instead. Why orange juice? Well, pineapple juice contains an enzyme that breaks down proteins; this is fine in a quick stir fry, but since this tofu is baked, I didn’t want it sitting in the juice for too long and becoming mushy. Orange juice adds sweetness, a hint of citrus flavor, and it lets the tofu keep its satisfying chewy texture.
Orange juice, brown sugar, and ketchup are the sweet element of this recipe and Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar is the sour. Rice vinegar is one of my favorite vinegars to cook with—I’m not a fan of strong vinegars and I find rice vinegar adds just the right amount of acid to a recipe without dominating the other flavors. I love Nakano Rice Vinegar because it’s contains no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and no high-fructose corn syrup. A little soy sauce, garlic, and fresh ginger result in a perfectly balanced sauce for this dish.
The sauce and the cooking method might be a little unexpected, but I kept things traditional with the rest of the ingredients: in addition to extra-firm tofu, bell peppers and pineapple are baked in the sauce. Serve this dish over a bed of rice or quinoa and finish it with a garnish of sliced green onions.
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This recipe was created in connection with my appointment as a contributor to the Nakano Natural and Seasoned Rice Vinegar.