I came up with this recipe last year when I had an extreme craving for my desert island dish, Peking duck and pancakes, in the middle of January when Billy and I had pledged to forgo meat and booze for the month after all the Christmas indulgence. This is our third year of doing dry and veggie January and it is definitely worth a go if you want to to kick off the new year feeling healthy and rejuvenated. Plus it means you can reward yourself with a massive rare steak and Champagne celebration feast at the beginning of February.
Nothing can ever replace the juicy, meaty heaven that is freshly roasted duck, but to my surprise I've discovered that smoked tofu makes an amazing substitute. This recipe also works with plain tofu, but the smoked stuff has an extra flavour oomph. You can find the pancakes in the Chinese ready-meal section of most supermarkets, otherwise in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets, and hoisin sauce with the jars of cooking sauces, though I recommend choosing the most authentically Asian brand that you can find. This is a seriously scrumptious meal but relatively quick and easy to throw together; great for when you want a treat for dinner but haven't got the time/can't be bovved to put in too much effort, and it makes a lovely sharing dish if you're cooking for friends.
Block of smoked tofu
Cucumber, cut into batons
Spring onions finely sliced
Few tablespoons of oil for frying
1. Remove the tofu from the packet, wrap it up in several layers of kitchen roll, and put something heavy on top of it to draw out the water (I use a wooden chopping board with a heavy pan on top). Leave this for at least half an hour, then remove the kitchen roll.
2. Chop the tofu up into chunks - roughly 1-2cm wide. Use kitchen roll to pat them dry on all sides.
3. Cover a plate generously in cornflour, then roll the tofu pieces in the flour, making sure they are well coated all over.
4. Heat some oil in a frying pan - you don't need to deep fry the tofu, but you need to make sure that there is always a good couple of tbsps for the tofu to cook in, so add more oil as you go along if necessary.
5. Fry the tofu until it is well browned on all sides, keeping the pan quite hot so that it cooks quickly and crisps up a bit - should take about 10 mins.
6. Drain the tofu on some kitchen towel. Throw some sesame seeds into the pan and toast for a few minutes - the flour and oil might make them all stick together, which I like, but you can do this in a separate, dry pan if you prefer.
7. Sprinkle the sesame seeds onto the tofu and serve with the pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce.