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.
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.
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.
Sounds awesome!! Yep, the dryer the tofu are, the better the fry turns out. If you like this one, feel free to check out my other “Taiwanese Fried Tofu” recipe! 🙂
Hey George! Do you use Thai basil for this recipe?
Yes, I used a mixture of thai / purple basil when I was making this recipe! However, I would prefer to use Taiwanese Basil if I had access to it. All types of basil would work for this recipe though 🙂
This came out great! The fried tofu was absolutely perfect and I loved the sauce. A must try again!
This was really good! I didn’t have enough sauce to coat my tofu so I will probably double the sauce next time.
Hi Angela!! Ahh I’m super glad you liked it 🙂 I think I may have to increase the sauce amount in my recipe as well, as I’ve gotten similar feedback as yours! Thank you again for trying the recipe~
Absolutely loved making this dish! So full of flavor and prefect crispness
Hi Julie, yay!! I’m glad you enjoyed it~ was the YouTube video helpful?
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.
Hi Mary!! I’m so happy to hear that, glad you liked the dish =)) I did get some other feedback saying the sauce was not enough, perhaps I’ll double the sauce recipe on this post!! This is definitely a sauce that you can just double the recipe for, as the proportion will always be 1:1:1.
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.
Hi Rose!! Yes, I believe that works! However, The fried tofu may turn a little soggy. I recommend re-heating the tofu in an oven first (when you’re ready to prepare dinner), then add it to the sauce.
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.
Hi Janeen! Awhh much loove!! I’m so so happy to hear that your family loved it. Wish your whole family good health xxx
Im so glad I found you. Delicious!
Hi! Excited to try this recipe! Do you have a good non-alcoholic substitution for the wine?
Hi Sam sim!! I haven’t tried non-alcoholic substitutes myself, but I heard apple juice / white grape juice is a good approximation. Hope this helps! x
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 🙏🏻
Thank you, Cecile!! I thaw the tofu at room temperature most of the times, since it takes much longer in the fridge! And any plastic package should work. Good luck!
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!
What rice wine do you use?
Mirin, sake, Shaoxing, or something else?
Hi Jan! I’ve tested this with Shaoxing and mirin — they’re both good! I believe the traditional recipe calls for Shaoxing wine~
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.
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
Oh my god this sauce is out of this world, thank you for the recipe!
Could you fry the tofu in an air fryer after it’s been battered?
Yes, Neeru!! I’ve heard people had much success with the air fryer as well.
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 🙂
Thank you!! =)
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 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Best tofu I ever made. I use double the amount of the sauce and it turns out amazing!
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 😀
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!!