Three Cup Tofu

Frozen-and-thawed tofu fried to golden-brown perfection and coated with the quintessential Taiwanese “Three Cup” sauce. An easy vegan Taiwanese recipe, authentic to me.

“Three Cup” refers to the traditional Taiwanese recipe, which includes equal parts soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. Some cooks today deviate from the traditional proportions, but I personally love it. Perhaps it is closest to what I remember eating as a kid.

The sauce is sticky, salty and slightly sweet with a deep caramelized flavor. Taiwanese people use the sauce in a variety of stir-fry dishes, and they mostly involve poultry or seafood. In addition to the condiments, “Three Cup” sauce would not be complete without basil. Basil gives the sauce an amazing peppery flavor and a mint-y undertone.


Frozen-and-Thawed Tofu

The technique is easy, but will seriously elevate your tofu dishes ten-fold. You simply freeze the tofu, thaw it completely, freeze it again, then thaw it completely again. This can be done without taking the tofu out of its packet.

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.


Three Cup Tofu

4 from 40 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: DinnerCuisine: TaiwaneseDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Frozen-and-thawed tofu fried to golden-brown perfection and coated with the quintessential Taiwanese “Three Cup” sauce. An easy vegan Taiwanese recipe, authentic to me.

Ingredients

  • Tofu “Chicken”
  • 1 package (396 g) medium-firm tofu, frozen and thawed

  • Wet Batter
  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup oat milk (or other non-dairy milk)

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Seasoning Flour
  • 3/4 cup flour

  • 1/4 cup corn starch

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • Three Cup Sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil

  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 4 tablespoons light soy sauce

  • 4 tablespoons rice wine

  • 1 bunch basil, leaves only

Directions

  • Today we’re working with Medium-Firm Tofu that has been frozen, completely thawed, frozen again, and completely thawed again.* Note: You only take the tofu out of its container after the second thaw. 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.
  • Using your fingers, gently pull apart the tofu into nugget-sized pieces. Set them aside.
  • Prepare the wet batter. Simply combine all the dry ingredients, add the non-dairy milk, 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.
  • To batter the tofu pieces, dip them first into the wet batter, then into the seasoning flour. Pack the flour in very well!
  • Now onto the frying process — heat up a good amount of vegetable oil until around 180 degrees C (or use the chopstick test*). Remember to prepare a sheet pan lined with paper towel before frying. Once everything is ready, fry the tofu pieces until both each piece is entirely golden-brown. When the tofu is done, take them out of the oil to drain on the paper towel.
  • In a small-medium sized pan, heat up the sesame oil on medium heat and fry the garlic & ginger until aromatic, around 1-2 minutes. Then, add the brown sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine and reduce until the sauce has a coating consistency.
  • Add the fried tofu back into the pan and coat them completely with the three cup sauce. Finally, take off the heat and add the basil leaves to wilt them in the residual heat.

Notes

  • Note #1: This freeze-thaw technique traps creates pockets and tears within the tofu, making its texture resemble chicken.
  • Note #2: The “chopstick test”: If a wooden chopstick starts to bubble immediately when you place it in the oil, then the oil is hot enough for frying.

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Amy Ng
Amy Ng
1 year ago

This turned out really well! The freeze/thaw method really made a different texture. Definitely need to press out all the water for a good fry.

Patricia
Patricia
1 year ago

Hey George! Do you use Thai basil for this recipe?
Thanks 🙂

Mackenzie S
Mackenzie S
11 months ago

This came out great! The fried tofu was absolutely perfect and I loved the sauce. A must try again!

Angela N.
Angela N.
10 months ago

This was really good! I didn’t have enough sauce to coat my tofu so I will probably double the sauce next time.

Julie
Julie
10 months ago

Absolutely loved making this dish! So full of flavor and prefect crispness

Mary C
Mary C
9 months ago

Just made this tonight and it was by far the best tofu dish I’ve ever had. I ran out of the coating sauce so I would probably double that the next time I make it.

Rose
8 months ago

Could you prepare the recipe up to finished fried stage, (say earlier in the day)then when ready for dinner, complete the cook in the sauce.

Janeen
Janeen
8 months ago

Made 3 Cup Tofu last night for my non vegan parents. It turned out so delicious my father kept going in about how goid it was. The whole family loved it!
It was so good, tonight I made the sauce with oyster mushrooms and a handful of other veggies. One of our new favorite meals 💕
Sadly I didn’t take a pic because we were so excited to eat I forgot.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

Im so glad I found you. Delicious!

Sam sim
Sam sim
7 months ago

Hi! Excited to try this recipe! Do you have a good non-alcoholic substitution for the wine?

Cecile Laloux
Cecile Laloux
7 months ago

Hi George! This looks amazing and need to make this ASAP!!! Question though: do you thaw the tofu at room temperature or in the fridge? Any plastic package will work? Thank you 🙏🏻

Freja
Freja
7 months ago

I made this recently and it was fantastic! Sooo tasty! I coated my tofu in some corn starch and baked it with oil on high heat in the oven instead of frying it. It was a breeze to make and one of the tasties dishes I’ve ever made!

Jan
Jan
6 months ago

What rice wine do you use?
Mirin, sake, Shaoxing, or something else?

Thanks!

Ryk Edelstien
6 months ago

Made these from the TikTok version of your recipe and they came out perfect.

Note: The recipe should state Thai Basil.

Made one small modification and used a small amount of avocado oil to sauté the garlic and ginger, then added the sesame oil to finish.

I am amazed how crisp the baked tofu tossed in corn starch came out. The outside was shatteringly crisp.

Last edited 6 months ago by Ryk Edelstien
Janeen
Janeen
6 months ago

I used Mirin.
Shaoxing? Never heard of it, but now I want to check it out and do it the traditional way! Thanks for that bit if info
Janeen

Nancy Wang
Nancy Wang
6 months ago

Oh my god this sauce is out of this world, thank you for the recipe!

Neeru
Neeru
6 months ago

Could you fry the tofu in an air fryer after it’s been battered?

Paul D
Paul D
6 months ago

Turned out absolutely delicious! I highly recommend this recipe! I do agree with several other comments that there was not quite enough sauce for my preference, however, I also over reduced my sauce a bit so I think that contributed. I can’t wait to make this again 🙂

Abz
Abz
6 months ago

Perfection!!!!

Yon
Yon
6 months ago

Came across this on YouTube and decided to make it. I think I’ve made it 7 times since. One of my new favorite meals, hands-down!

I just just noticed I’ve been doing it wrong though haha. I’ve been using rice wine vinegar instead of rice wine. Obviously two very different things but, it’s delicious using rice wine vinegar as well! I’ll have to keep an eye out for rice wine 🙂

Mary P
Mary P
3 months ago
Reply to  Yon

Haha..I did the same thing. I just assumed it was vinegar. It wasn’t until I started reading the comments that I put 2 & 2 together.

saadia
saadia
3 months ago
Reply to  Yon

this is a super helpful comment! I was just wondering if it would be ok w rice wine vinegar because my family does not consume alcohol. I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t completely ruin the recipe, and your comment confirms that for me!

Mindy
Mindy
6 months ago

Definitely double up on the sauce! Did that and the recipe came out great. I used dried basil and while not as good as fresh, still did the job.

Lee
Lee
6 months ago

The BEST tofu dish we’ve ever made! And we have made a lot 🙂
We did the baked version (saw it on Instagram) and have already made it 4 more times!
Thank you for making such delicious recipes!

Samantha
Samantha
5 months ago

Big fan of the texture as a result of the freeze/thaw method. I did not press enough water out so I lost some crispiness but it really did look like chicken! I was a little too impatient when reducing the sauce and as a result I think it made the dish came out too salty.

I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again without my mistakes!

IMG_3315.jpeg
Christina
Christina
4 months ago

Best tofu I ever made. I use double the amount of the sauce and it turns out amazing!

Noelle
Noelle
4 months ago

Just found your site a few days ago and this was the first recipe I tried. It really was amazing, the texture of the tofu was so good and the sauce was super flavorful! Definitely going to try some other recipes soon 😀

Bianca
3 months ago

Outstanding. I use the double freeze method for normal fried ‘chicken’ to make sammies. To my batter I added Trader Joe’s Veganless Chicken Seasoning in place of the salt, and to my flour/rice flour (not cornstarch – I find RF cooks crispier) mix I added zhoug seasoning instead of chili powder. The Thai Basil really added a lovely dimension at the end. Thank you!!