Food + Drink

Baby bok choy with crispy tofu.

bokchoy & tofu

The other night I was gazing longingly at Isa Chandra’s avocado, basil and peanut stir-fry recipe, wishing I had all of the ingredients on hand but knowing there was stuff in my fridge (hi there, baby bok choy!) that I had to cook before it went bad. Using the basis of her stir-fry sauce recipe as a guide, though, I put together a really fast and easy little meal that I’m sure I’ll make again. You don’t even need to use bok choy, of course, that’s just what I had—any other combo of veggies would be fine (broccoli, peppers, onions, shredded carrots, or even kale, if you’re hardcore). It’s really the sauce and the crispy tofu that hold it all together.

Serves 2

1 tsp peanut oil
8oz extra-firm tofu
3 heads baby bok choy, ends trimmed
1 tbsp black sesame seeds

noodles or rice

2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat the peanut oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high heat. While it’s getting hot, slice the tofu, press out the excess moisture with a towel, then cut it into cubes. Sprinkle with a little pinch of salt (and maybe a little Japanese seven spice, if you have it) and toss gently to coat with oil. Let the tofu cook for 5-7 minutes, tossing every couple of minutes, until it’s nice and brown on all sides. Set tofu aside.

Keeping the pan on medium-high heat, add the baby bok choy and a little bit of water (maybe a tablespoon)—just enough to get some steam going. Cover the pan and let the bok choy cook for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. It will shrink down considerably as it cooks, so don’t worry if it seems like the pan is overstuffed at first.

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and add to the pan with the bok choy. Sprinkle in the black sesame seeds. Once the sauce is bubbly, add the tofu back to the pan and let simmer for another minute or so—the sauce should thicken up a bit.

Serve over noodles or rice!

bokchoy & tofu prep

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  • Reply jennski April 12, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I LOVE bok choy!

  • Reply Nancy April 12, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I’m making a rice bowl with roasted tofu and chard tonight but this recipe is filed away! I’m also reminded yet again that A) I really need a cast-iron pan and B) I need to expand my oil collection beyond olive and canola…

  • Reply Kate April 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    This looks so good! I like to make sesame-orange-ginger bok choy with toasted sesame oil. It’s super fragrant and a great way to get your veggies.

  • Reply Meagan April 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    looks AWESOME!

  • Reply Anastasia April 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try this dish out. I can never get my tofu to look that good, but I’m definitely going to try.

  • Reply julie April 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    This looks yum! I took your advice awhile back and bought the “Appetite for Reduction” book and it is probably the best cookbook I have ever bought. I am a vegetarian, but the amazing recipes in that book have inspired me to make way more vegan meals. :)

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Isn’t that book amazing?! I cook from it all the time, and everything I’ve tried has been a winner.

  • Reply jbhat April 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    That looks easy and tasty! Thanks for sharing.


  • Reply L April 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Looks like serious YUM!

    My tofu never, ever gets crispy and lovely like yours **sigh** despite using peanut oil and cast iron. Guess I just need to be more patient. Will for sure try this.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      L, try slicing the tofu first about 1/2″ thick, and then press it (hard!) between towel layers. I usually use cheap cotton tea towels that I can just throw in the wash, but paper towels are just fine, too. You really want to get a lot of the moisture out. Once that’s done, cut it into cubes. Make sure your pan is nice and hot before you put the tofu in—you want to hear it sizzle on contact—and let it sit for a couple of minutes before flipping/tossing. Be patient! ;)

      Also, I get the best results with extra-firm tofu when I’m stir-frying. Soft or silken tofu tends to stay a little wetter and softer.

      If all else fails, try pressing/slicing your tofu and then freezing (and defrosting) it before you use it. It changes the texture and makes it a little spongier, but it also comes out drier and crispier.

      • Reply Jenny April 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm

        You can also try dry-frying tofu – that is, cooking it in a non-stick (or very well-seasoned cast iron) pan without oil. I’ve had great results and get the same brown, crusty outside pictured above. It’s obviously lower-fat, if you’re worried about that sort of thing, but it has the added benefit of being much cleaner and more pleasant to cook, IMHO. Here’s a tutorial:

        (And I’d definitely still use some oil to stir-fry the bok choy and bring the final dish together.)

        Looks awesome, Anna! I love quick, healthy, one-bowl meals.

        • Reply Anna @ D16 April 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm

          Jenny, as the article you linked to also suggests, I definitely wouldn’t use a non-stick pan to cook something like tofu or do a stir-fry, since you’d tend to keep the heat on the high side so the veggies cook quickly. I really only use a non-stick pan if I’m cooking at very low heat, and even then it makes me nervous.

          I think the fat content would wind up being the same, though, whether you add it at the beginning (with the tofu) or at the end (with the veggies). I personally like to cook vegetables with steam rather than oil, which is why I take the tofu out before doing the veggies. As for the mess factor, it really isn’t an issue when you’re talking about a tsp or less of oil. It’s really just enough to give the surface of the pan a light coating.

          I do like the dry-frying method you linked to, though, but not for the reasons you mentioned—I like it when I’m using a marinade, because “wet” tofu doesn’t absorb sauces very well. Before marinating, I either use really well-pressed, pre-frozen (defrosted) tofu, or I dry-fry first. :)

      • Reply L April 13, 2011 at 8:37 am

        Thank you, Anna! I’ve got a lot to learn about tofu, obviously ;-}

  • Reply kc April 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    We eat some sort of rice bowl with tofu and whatever is left from our CSA box each week. Best dinners. I’m really enjoying your food posts.

  • Reply cynthia April 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Anna,I Iove your recipes! I will definately try this one. I make your crispy kale chips once a week. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply Charlotte April 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Yum! While I’m not vegan, I own (and cook from) quite a few vegan cookbooks. I have had Veganomicon on my amazon wishlist for a while, so I guess I need to actually buy it some time soon!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      I have Veganomicon (and several of ISM’s other cookbooks), but I’ve gotta say…Appetite For Reduction is the best one!

  • Reply maggie April 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Yum that looks so good, and simple too. I got a wok for Christmas and I am stir-frying everything in sight. Adding this one to the recipe file!

  • Reply nicolezh April 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Yummi! I love anything Isa Chandra Moskowitz, her cookbooks are the ones I use most. My alltime fave also for dinner, lunch and in between is “Vegan brunch”, “Appetite for reduction” runs second. You all shoul try the lasagna from the book, it’ts amazing!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 13, 2011 at 8:20 am

      I make the lasagna all the time, it’s so great! I like to use kale (pre-cooked) instead of spinach and make the sauce spicy. :)

      I have her vegan brunch cookbook too, and I agree that it’s awesome. The basic pancake recipe is TDF.

  • Reply jennifer April 13, 2011 at 8:40 am

    yum, yum and yum!
    glad to hear i’m hardcore! i eat kale EVERYDAY. love it. raw, cooked, blended in a smoothie . . .
    and since we’re talking books CLEAN START is my new must have fave.

  • Reply layersofmeaning April 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    YUUUUUUUUUUUUM! This looks so good! I might have to try it for dinner tonight.

  • Reply Tamisha April 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I made this tonight with a few modifications. I added snow peas and enoki mushrooms. I used sugar (cause that’s what I had) and chili-garlic sauce rather than sirracha. Think those were the only changes. It was really good! Thanks!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

      That sounds delicious, Tamisha!

  • Reply jennifer_in_sf April 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    I made this last night with broccoli and quinoa, and it was delicious. Even though I stuck a big forkful in my mouth without testing it first and burned my tongue. Because I’m stupid when I’m hungry!

  • Reply Melanie April 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Yum! Can’t wait to try this one. Anything with Sriracha in it is good in my books.

  • Reply erin@designcrisis April 14, 2011 at 10:31 am

    omg, YUM!

    I have to say, I’ve attempted fried tofu many times and it never comes out right. Maybe peanut oil is the secret?

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 14, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Peanut oil is great because it can be used at high temperatures without smoking (or becoming carcinogenic). It doesn’t really add a noticeable peanut flavor when you’re using it in a stir-fry. I also sometimes use toasted sesame oil, which has a much more pronounced flavor.

  • Reply maddie April 14, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    i made your sauce tonight with stir fried veggies and tofu, but i substituted sake and a pinch of sugar for the mirin :) soooo awesome!!!! and the leftover sake is a happy bonus.

  • Reply candy April 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Made this tonight. OH MAN. Threw in some Leek in addition to the bok choy (also leftover) as I had some leftover from another thing and just YUM YUM YUM! Served it over Soba noodles instead of rice.

    Thank you so much for sharing. Got rid of a lot of veggies before they went bad.

    Gorgeous photos, as always.

  • Reply Rebecca April 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I made this for my vegetarian 14-year-old son, tonight. I added snap peas, because I didn’t have enough bok choy. When there were no more vegetables or tofu left in his bowl, he ate the sauce like it was soup. I think this one’s a keeper.

  • Reply Belinda April 17, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I made this tonight and it was amazing. Thank you so much! I did do a naughty non-vegan thing and used honey instead of agave. And fried the tofu with sesame oil instead of peanut. And I just bought ‘Appetite for Reduction’. I have SO many vegan/vegetarian recipe books with really complicated recipes. I am too busy/lazy to make complicated food. Thanks for that recommendation too!

  • Reply tallin April 20, 2011 at 12:19 am

    I made a similar meal last night inspired by the one you made: tofu, baby bok choi, kale, mushrooms and a dash of worcestershire sauce. Pretty darn good, and pretty darn snappy to make!

    Also, where is that lovely bowl from?

    • Reply Anna @ D16 April 20, 2011 at 12:46 am


      The bowl with the straight white sides is from CB2, and the one with the black dots is from IKEA.

  • Reply candy April 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    This was awesome! Thank you for sharing. I also made the Avacado one from the Punk Kitchen, which was tasty as well. Blogged about this here:

    Adore your blog. :)

  • Reply ZaBoo May 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I was looking for a recipe specifically for bok choy, and I just made this… it turned out amazing! It was my first time working with tofu, and honestly, it seemed pretty straight forward. :) I don’t have a cast iron pan (new investment!) and I used the peanut oil to brown the tofu… it worked perfect, although cooking time was a little extended to get the right amount of crispiness.

    Also, I added shiitake and oyster mushrooms that I just happened to have on hand. Soooo good.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Yay! Glad you liked it, ZaBoo. :)

  • Reply Sally May 22, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Don’t know if you ever go through New Rochelle on your way home (I know nothing about NY geography!) but this seemed up your ally.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 May 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

      Thanks, Sally! That’s not an area I’m usually in, but you never know :)

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