Thursday, September 10, 2015

12. Wasabi and Beer Battered Tofu Tacos with Cabbage-Daikon Radish Slaw and Lime-Avocado Aioli


As I said in my last taco recipe post, I'm trying to feature a few less-obvious taco fillings before I go back to beef, chicken, etc.  I've made some great progress, but I've got a long way to go before I reach  100 recipes, so I'm trying to rotate the main component of each recipe as much as I can!

I decided to go with tofu this time around.  I wouldn't say that tofu is my favorite food, but I definitely enjoy it.  It's pretty neutral in flavor, but it's not difficult to make it very tasty if you use a great marinade or sauce.

My recipe calls for pressed tofu.  If you've never done this before, it's easy.  Just place the block of tofu on a small plate.  Place another plate on top of it.  Set something slightly heavy (such as a bowl) on the top plate to press on the tofu.  It it's too heavy, you'll smash the tofu, so be careful.  Mine looked like this:

I put a small amount of water in the bowl pictured above to make it a bit heavier.  As the excess liquid is pressed from the tofu, pour it off of the bottom plate.  I usually press tofu for about 30 to 60 minutes.

For this taco, I was inspired by the times when I made a tofu version of fried fish tacos during my eight years as a vegetarian.  I definitely missed fish tacos when I was a vegetarian, but the tofu was pretty amazing!  I discovered that a fish taco is as much about the crunch of the breading, the tang of the lime, and and creaminess of the sauce as it is about the fish.

Are these THOSE tacos?  No.  Of course not.  That would be too easy.  If you've read any of my recipes at all, you know that I just can't leave well enough alone.

I decided to give them an Asian twist.  I don't know if they reminded me of fish tacos quite as much as my previous version, but they were delicious!  Here's the recipe!  :)

Wasabi and Beer Battered Tofu Tacos with Cabbage-Daikon Radish Slaw and Lime-Avocado Aioli

Serves 4 (about 8 to 10 generous tacos)


For the lime-avocado aioli:

1/2 cup mayonnaise (use vegan if you wish)
1 ripe avocado
1 small clove garlic, chopped
Juice of one lime
1/4 tsp. salt

For the tofu:

1 14 oz. package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 cup all-purpose flour (with extra for dredging)
About 10 oz. beer (not dark; I used a pilsner)
1 1/2 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. prepared wasabi (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying

For the cabbage-daikon radish slaw:

2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup peeled and shredded daikon radish
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
3 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8-20 corn tortillas, depending on their size and whether you plan to double them up


1.  Make the aioli:  Place the aioli ingredients in a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup.  Blend with a hand blender until smooth.  (You can do this in a regular blender or food processor if you wish.)  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Transfer to a small dish.  Cover and set aside.

2.  Prepare the batter for the tofu:  Whisk together flour, beer, tamari, garlic powder, wasabi, and pepper in a medium bowl.  Cover and set aside.

3.  Make the slaw:  Combine all of the slaw ingredients in a medium bowl.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

4.  Cut the tofu into large strips.  I cut mine into about 20 pieces, but if you like a lot of breading on your tofu, you could cut them smaller.  Mine looked like this:  (The plate is a salad plate.)

Pat any excess moisture dry with paper towels.  

5.  Add canola oil to a deep pot until a depth of about 2 inches is reached.  Heat the oil to about 360 degrees.  Set aside some extra flour in a shallow dish.

6.  While the oil is heating, prepare the tortillas to your liking.  There are a few different ways you can do this.  When I am making tacos with soft corn tortillas, I heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  I place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan.  I heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.

After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil and place them in a 250 degree oven until I'm ready to assemble the tacos.  They always stay hot and soft!  If there are leftovers, I heat fresh tortillas for the next meal.  

6.  Fry the tofu:  Dredge several strips of tofu in the extra flour.  Dip them in the batter.  Allow the excess to drain off and then carefully drop in the hot oil.  Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from the oil and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Do this in batches.  It took me about four batches to cook mine, but it went pretty quickly!

If you're not quite ready to eat, you can keep the tofu warm in the 250 degree oven with the tortillas.

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  If you have thin corn tortillas, as I did, use two for each taco.  Place a few strips of tofu down the center.  Top with some of the slaw.  Spoon on some of the aioli.  Garnish with a squeeze of lime and enjoy!

Well, I wasn't totally sure how these would go over, but we ended up really enjoying them!

My husband wasn't super excited when I said we were having tofu tacos, but he is always a good sport.  Also, he remembered my tofu "fish" tacos, so he knew there was a chance they could be great!  As it turns out, he is a fan of these Asian tofu tacos as well.  His complaint?  I used up the rest of our wasabi in the batter.  There was none to add as a garnish!  He wanted more wasabi, but I should probably disclose that the amount of wasabi he puts on sushi would blow your head off!  If you're like that, you may want some extra wasabi as well.  :)

What would I change?  Well . . . not much, honestly!  I suppose you could get the tofu to pop a little bit more with the right marinade, but it's a Thursday, not a Saturday!  I had to go back to school for an evening rehearsal.  There was no time for that kind of nonsense today!

I do think I would cut the tofu pieces slightly smaller next time.  There was a lot of flavor in the breading.  Making the tofu pieces smaller would make the breading more prominent and add more crunch!  Steve said the large pieces of tofu looked like big Hebrew National franks in some of the pictures.  Ha ha.  Ugh.  I didn't use those pictures!  (Don't get me wrong; Hebrew Nationals are good hot dogs, but in a taco with daikon radish slaw?  No.)

Well, I'm beat!  This is the first time I've started a taco post, gone to rehearsal, and then come home and finished it!  I'm calling it a day.  A busy day!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  Do you have any other great ideas for tofu tacos?

Thanks for reading!

Update:  These reheat really well.  Just place the tofu in a 375 degree oven (on a sheet of foil sprayed with cooking spray) and cook until hot and crisp.  Mine took about 8 minutes.  The breading will seem soggy when you start, but it comes back to life!  You may want to take the slaw and aioli out of the refrigerator a little while before you do the tofu so they are not ice-cold.  These tacos were just as good as leftovers!  :)

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