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Pan-frying chopped tofu in a pan and coating it with delicious sauce is my latest favorite method of cooking tofu. It’s straightforward, and as I think about sauce options, they are countless! Today, I created these Hoisin Tofu Lettuce Cups with only a handful of ingredients I already had in my pantry. (What do you have if you don’t have half-empty containers of Hoisin sauce sitting in your refrigerator?)

If you do not like lettuce cups, you could serve this as an entrée bowl. It’s just a matter of adding additional rice or maybe the diced red bell peppers to make them bulkier somewhat, but it’s the same delicious and less fussy.


Another option in the recipe would be to chill and thaw your tofu before beginning. I prefer to put the tofu package in the freezer as soon as I return from the grocery store, and the next day, I put it back in the fridge to cool so it’s ready to use a day later or when I’m prepared to use it. What’s the advantage of tofu being frozen? It changes the texture of the tofu, making it firmer and less gel-like. This also means it’s easy to squeeze the liquid out using your fingers instead of waiting for around 30 minutes or more while the delicate tofu pressurizes. Take a test. It will change things!


14 oz. extra firm tofu ($1.79)

1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)

2 Tbsp cornstarch ($0.08)

Two tablespoons cooking oil ($0.08)

1/2 cup hoisin sauce ($0.89)

2. Green onions ($0.25)

One carrot ($0.15)

1/4 cup of peanuts ($0.12)

1 cup cooked rice ($0.25)

One head lettuce* ($2.49)


Take your tofu from the packaging and set it on two baking sheets. Add something sturdy on top, such as an iron skillet, to support it, and press it out of the excess liquid. The tofu will be prompted for approximately 30 minutes. Then, pour off the liquid and dry the tofu with a towel.

Chop the tofu block into smaller irregular shapes. Place the tofu chopped in a bowl, then sprinkle on salt and 1 TBSP cornstarch. Fold the cornstarch and tofu until they are coated. Finally, add another tablespoon of cornstarch and fold once more.

Cooking oil should be heated on medium in a non-stick pan (cast iron or teflon of your preference). When it is hot, add the cornstarch-coated tofu. Let the tofu cook until it is golden brown at its bottom. Stir it and allow it to cook until the bottom is golden brown again. Continue this procedure until most of the tofu has become crispy and golden outside (about 10 minutes). Please remove it from the stove.

The hoisin sauce should be added to the fried tofu and stir it to coat. Cut the green onion in half and cut the carrot into shreds. Cut the peanuts into small pieces.

To construct these cups of lettuce, pour 2 Tbsp rice cooked in each leaf, then top with 1-2 tbsp of hoisin-tofu mixture, then cut green onion, chopped carrots with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

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Joseph M. Kay

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