Taiwanese Fried Tofu

A vegan version Taiwanese-style Fried Chicken using frozen-and-thawed tofu. Boldly favored just how you’ll find them on the streets of Taipei.

My all-time favorite Taiwanese street food is none other than the Taiwanese Chicken Cutlet (雞排). It is this Schnitzel-looking, thin slab of chicken breast that’s been deep fried to golden-brown perfection and boldly flavored with pepper salt and five-spice.

The dish is known for its size — one piece is literally as big as your face! For some reason I just feel invincible whenever I have one of these cutlets in my hands — they’re so big I feel like a knight equipped with a shield while casually sauntering down the side walk. As for the popcorn chicken, not much more needs to be said here. They are bite-sized versions of the chicken cutlet, albeit usually made with chicken thighs. In this recipe, I recreated both the Taiwanese Chicken Cutlet and the Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken with Tofu. But before we chuck that slab of tofu into the deep-fryer, a special technique must be done…

To sum it up, the technique is as follows: you freeze the tofu, thaw it completely, freeze it again, then thaw it completely again. The whole process takes around a whole day so be sure to prepare ahead of time! This works best with medium-firm tofu as it has the optimal liquid content. Note that you only take the tofu out of its container after the second thaw.

I know this is a lot of work, but trust me, it will be so worth it! After the second thaw, you will see amazing cracks and layers form on both the exterior and the interior of the tofu.

What happens when you freeze the tofu is that the liquid inside the tofu crystallizes and forms large clumps. And when you thaw the tofu, the ice crystals will melt but the space they have taken up will remain there, creating many cracks and tears on the tofu. Doing this process two times simply magnifies its effect.


Taiwanese Fried Tofu

5 from 3 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: SnackCuisine: TaiwaneseDifficulty: Medium
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

A vegan version Taiwanese-style Fried Chicken using frozen-and-thawed tofu. Boldly favored just how you’ll find them on the streets of Taipei.

Ingredients

  • Tofu “Chicken”
  • 1 medium medium-firm tofu, frozen and thawed twice

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • Wet Batter
  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Seasoning Flour
  • 3/4 cup sweet potato starch

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • Seasoning Salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground five-spice

  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (optional)

Directions

  • Today we’re working with medium-firm tofu. It has been frozen, completely thawed, frozen again, and completely thawed again (in its original container).
  • Look at those beautiful cracks and layers! Now you want to press the tofu (for at least 15 minutes) either with a tofu press or a heavy object to squeeze out extra liquid. Be careful not to press too hard as the tofu is very brittle at this stage.
  • Slice the tofu in half — be very careful as you want at least one of the halves completely intact. One my pieces is completely intact so I will use that piece to make the chicken cutlet (雞排). I will break up the cracked piece to make popcorn chicken.
  • Spread the soy sauce onto the two pieces. Set aside.
  • Prepare the wet batter. Simply combine all the dry ingredients, add water, and give it a good whisk. Make sure that the batter is well combined and that there are little to no lumps.
  • Prepare the seasoning flour by mixing all the ingredients as well.
  • Quickly put together the seasoning salt as well (for the finished product).
  • Time to batter up the tofu pieces! Set up your stations:
  • Dip the tofu first in the wet batter, then into the seasoning flour. Pack the flour in very well.
  • Repeat breading steps for the nuggets.
  • Now onto the frying process — we are doing a double fry. Heat up a good amount of vegetable oil in a shallow pan until around 160 C (320 F). This is the first “low temperature” fry. Remember to prepare a sheet pan lined with paper towel and a wire rack! Fry the tofu pieces. Start with the chicken cutlet.
  • Be very careful when flipping the chicken cutlet! The tofu is very fragile. Use as many tools you need to help you flip the cutlet. You want to fry the tofu pieces until both sides are lightly crispy. Repeat this for the nuggets.
  • Let the fried tofu pieces rest on a wire wrack while you re-heat the oil. This time, heat the oil until it is 180 C (356 F). This time we’re frying them with higher heat.
  • Fry the tofu pieces again — this time until they are super crispy and golden-brown. Once they’re done, take them out and let them rest on the wire wrack. Immediately sprinkle on that seasoning salt. Do the same for the tofu nuggets.

Notes

  • Twice Frozen-and-Thawed Tofu. This freeze-thaw technique traps creates pockets and tears within the tofu, making its texture resemble chicken.
  • Substitutes for sweet potato starch: If you don’t have sweet potato starch, you can substitute it with the same amount of potato starch or cornstarch. If you don’t have either, feel free to use all-purpose flour instead.
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D
D
1 year ago

Can i replace potato starch with something else? It’s not the easiest to find

Jennifer
Jennifer
1 year ago

This recipe was delicious! Freezing the tofu made it have the texture of chicken which blew me away. I also replaced the potato starch with cornstarch which worked out great. The spices were amazing too, made me so nostalgic and also made me want to go back to Taiwan :’)

Rubi
Rubi
1 year ago

Thank you for the recipe! I really liked the crunch and texture of the tofu. Just a question, how thick was your tofu cutlet? I think mine was a little too thick and ended up tasting a bit bland on the inside.. but will definitely try making them again!

Ayanna E Gardner
Ayanna E Gardner
1 year ago

Absolutely delicious! Used an air fryer and it turned out great!!

Mary
Mary
1 year ago

Attempted to use the air fryer for this recipe but it turned out pretty dry and hard. I set it at 360 for 20 minutes. Maybe I soaked it in too much flour?

Michi
Michi
10 months ago

Do you freeze the whole packet, or drain the water out of the packet first?

Dev
Dev
7 months ago

Looks amazing! Do you thaw the tofu in hot/warm water or do you just let it sit outside?

Margot
Margot
6 months ago

I’m a meat eater and my boyfriend is vegan.. but we both agree these are AMAZING! I’ve tried loads of crispy deep fried tofu recipes but this one steals the cake. Impeccable texture AND flavor. I tossed the leftovers in some barbecue sauce the next day for a bonus.

Lily
Lily
5 months ago

I just made this for my family – we loved it! Definitely an indulgence with the frying and salt, but it ended up tasting just like something you’d get at a Taiwanese night market. Thanks for introducing me to the wonder of freezing and thawing twice; it definitely changes the texture and how well the tofu soaks up marinade!