A bento bowl consisting of crispy, sesame encrusted tofu, plain rice, stir-fried greens and Japanese-inspired pickles is our dinner du jour!
As the island gets colder, windier and emptier by the day we find ourselves missing city life a little bit more… Things like going to a cinema or out for a casual dinner used to be something we did often in winter and now we need to save them all up until our next city break…
A place we used to go to in London’s Soho made a kick-ass bento box and this bento bowl is a bow to our London ritual of going out for simple Japanese food. When teamed up with a steaming hot bowl of miso, I find this simple meal comforting, satisfying and nourishing – just what the doctor ordered in this tempestuous island weather.
PICKLES (make a day ahead)
- 6 cm / 2 ” piece of ginger
- 1 daikon or 2-3 small turnips
- 240 ml / 1 cup rice vinegar
- ¼-½ cup sugar or maple syrup (adjust to taste)
- 1½ tsp fine sea salt
- a slice of raw beetroot (optional)
- ½ tsp turmeric (optional)
- 200 g tofu, pressed*
- 2 tbsp tamari (if GF) or soy sauce
- 2 tsp Sriracha
- 1 cup Panko or gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp black sesame seeds
- 1 tsp white sesame seeds
- 120 ml / ½ cup reduced aquafaba**
- 4 tbsp / ¼ cup cornflour / cornstarch
- 3 tbsp oil for frying (I used peanut)
- favourite rice, cooked (I used sushi rice)
- stir-fried veggies (I used broccoli)
- tamari or soy sauce, to serve
- chilli sauce, to serve
- Peel the ginger and daikon. Slice the ginger as thinly as you can and slice the daikon into slightly thicker slices.
- Rub half a tsp of salt into the ginger slices and set aside for 30 min. After 30 min rinse the salt off.
- Put rice vinegar, 120 ml / ½ cup cup of water, sugar and 1 tsp of salt into a small pot and bring to a gentle boil.
- Prepare two small jars / bowls if you intend to dye the ginger pink and the daikon yellow. Otherwise you can pickle everything together! Place ginger in one small jar and daikon in another and divide the pickling mixture between these two containers. Add a slice of beetroot to the ginger to dye it pink and turmeric to the daikon to dye it yellow. Set aside for a day.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of tamari (or soy sauce) and 2 tsp of Sriracha into a shallow bowl. Mix well. Cut the pressed tofu block into 12 even pieces and place them into the soy-Sriracha marinade. Make sure the pieces are evenly coated by spooning some of the marinade over the top of the cut tofu. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare three shallow bowls or large plates, one with cornflour / cornstarch, another with aquafaba and the third one with breadcrumbs mixed in with sesame seeds. If using Panko breadcrumbs, crush them a little in a pestle and mortar to get rid of large pieces as they don’t stick to the tofu that well.
- Coat each tofu square in cornflour, then in aquafaba and finally in breadcrumbs. Make sure you press each side of the cube into the flour and breadcrumbs well to achieve an even coating on all sides. If you want a thicker crust, you can dip the tofu in aquafaba and breadcrumbs again after you’ve done the first coat.
- Pour 2-3 tbsp of oil into a wok and heat it up. Once the oil is hot, fry the tofu in batches of 6. Turn the heat down to medium (I use setting 4 out of 6 on my electric hob) so that the pieces do not brown too quickly. They should take about 1-2 minutes on each side. Once the first batch is ready, spread the tofu on a piece of paper towel to blot excess fat and start frying the second batch.
- Serve the tofu straight from the wok, on top of plain cooked rice with stir-fried veggies, with pickles and condiments (tamari / soy sauce and chilli sauce) on a side.
** Reduced aquafaba simply means simmered, without a lid on, until excess water evaporates and the aquafaba becomes thicker. Once it cools it will resemble an egg white (please cool it down completely before using it in this recipe). Even if you use aquafaba from a can / tin, you can still reduce it as described above as it tends to be quite watery straight from a can / tin.