Three Cup Tofu

Twice Frozen-and-Thawed Tofu fried to golden-brown perfection and coated with the quintessential Taiwanese “Three Cup” sauce — what more could you ask for?! This is an easy and authentic vegan Taiwanese recipe that will elevate your weeknight dinners ten-fold.


What is “Three Cup”?

“Three Cup” refers to the traditional Taiwanese recipe, which includes equal parts soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. In this recipe, I will honor that tradition.

The Three Cup 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 elevate your tofu dishes ten-fold. You simply freeze the tofu, thaw it completely, freeze it again, then thaw it completely again. 

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 5 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: DinnerCuisine: TaiwaneseDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Twice frozen-and-thawed tofu fried to golden-brown perfection and coated with the quintessential Taiwanese “Three Cup” sauce. An easy and authentic vegan Taiwanese recipe that will elevate your weeknight dinners ten-fold.

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
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 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.* 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.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • #1: This freeze-thaw technique traps creates pockets and tears within the tofu, making its texture resemble chicken.
  • #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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4.7 9 votes
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Amy Ng
Amy Ng
4 months 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
4 months ago

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

Mackenzie S
Mackenzie S
3 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.
1 month 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
1 month ago

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

Mary C
Mary C
29 days 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.