Pan Fried Chinese Five Spice Tofu

Charred five spice tofu on salad
Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with tofu. I grew up eating the stuff, but I didn’t always like it. When I had it at home, it was often bland and I wasn’t a fan of the texture (Sorry, Dad). But when I started cooking tofu for myself, I discovered that there where many different kinds of tofu, each with their own texture and uses. Tofu “pok” were deep fried pockets that were stuffed with savory ingredients, tofu skin or yuba were often layered together to form a mock chicken or duck. Soft tofu was best covered with flavourful vegetable gravy and firm tofu needed a bit more work to infuse it with flavour.
Click here for the printable recipe.

Video Tutorial for Pan-Fried Chinese Five-Spice Tofu

This simple pan-fried tofu uses Chinese Five Spice. The mix varies slightly based on the region of China it comes from but the one I have includes cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger, and fennel. This aromatic combination imparts an rich aroma that reminds me of Chinese BBQ. I love it when I can get “meaty” flavours out of completely meat-less ingredients! Also, check out this recipe for Chinese Five Spice Seitan.

soy sauce, maple syrup and spices

The reason why I’m obsessed with tofu lately is that I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with homemade fresh tofu. It’s ridiculously easy to make, using just soymilk, fresh lemon juice and water. It’s really cheap to make too. That said, store-bought tofu is often inexpensive as well. The main reason I like to make it myself is the taste though. The taste is milder, less beany and the texture seems to soak up marinades faster. The second very important reason I make my own tofu is to save on all the plastic packaging. Each block of tofu from the store only makes 4 servings of tofu and between the my boyfriend and me, we go through several blocks a week. Every time I cut open a package, I am keenly aware of the plastic that is being wasted. So I really encourage others to give fresh tofu a go.

slices of tofu marinating

First, I sliced the tofu into bite sized pieces and blotted the excess moisture with a towel. This helps the next step which is marinating the tofu. I marinate the tofu in a simple mixture of maple syrup and soy sauce. This is to give the tofu a balance of salty, umami, and sweetness. You can also use strong vegetable broth or liquid aminos instead of the soy sauce. You can also change up the sweetener for something like watered down brown rice syrup, agave or any other light syrup.

tofu pieces in spice mixture

After letting that marinate, I coat all the pieces in our spice mixture. This mixture includes nutritional yeast for it’s chicken-like flavour, Chinese Five Spice powder, onion powder and garlic powder. You can use fresh onion and garlic as well, but add them to the marinade instead of the dry coating. To make these even more crispy, you can add cornstarch to the mix. However, I was fresh out of cornstarch on the say I made these for this blog post! It worked out alright though, they still got crispy though the crispy “skin” wasn’t as crunchy as usual.

tofu pieces pan frying

I had also wanted to photograph this with traditional Chinese foods. Like rice and sauteed vegetables, but of course, I discovered that I was out of rice! So I had a lovely salad instead. I’m not a huge salad eater but now I’m a little obsessed with having crispy tofu on salad! Funny how it all works out in the end!

Printable recipe for Pan-Fried Chinese Five-Spice Tofu

Pan Fried Chinese Five Spice Tofu
Serves 2
An aromatic, flavourful preparation for tofu that is simple yet delicious.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
  1. 4 oz (about 125g) firm tofu cut into bite sized pieces, 1/2" thick (about 1 cm)
  2. 1/2 tablespoon of cooking oil
  1. 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  2. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
Dry Coating
  1. 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  2. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  4. 1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
  1. Blot the excess moisture from the tofu pieces.
  2. Mix the soy sauce and maple syrup together for the marinade.
  3. Toss the tofu pieces in the marinade gently and let rest for a few minutes.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients.
  5. Remove the tofu from the marinade, letting the excess liquid drip off.
  6. Coat the tofu in the dry mix by gently pressing each side into the dry mix.
  7. Heat a non-stick pan on high heat with a half tablespoon of cooking oil.
  8. When the oil will start to shimmer when it is hot enough but not smoking. Place the tofu on to the pan and let cook for 20 to 30 seconds.
  9. Turn the heat down to medium and allow the tofu to cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, or until the bottom is well browned.
  10. Use a spatula or chopsticks to flip the pieces. Continue to cook on the other side for a minute or until that side is browned to your preference.
  11. Remove the tofu from the pan, and let cool slightly before eating.
  12. Enjoy!
Mary's Test Kitchen https://www.marystestkitchen.com/
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