Asian pears are beautiful this time of year, and add an unexpected sweet-crisp accent to this hearty vegetarian stir-fry. And I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy tofu, since it’s such a blank canvas and it’s fun to try different methods for it. You won’t be disappointed – the stir frying crisps it up so deliciously!
I adapted this recipe from Vegetarian Times by replacing bell pepper with more delicately-flavored celery and adding more cashews (because I love them!). If you aren’t a fan of celery, though, just see the original recipe for how to use bell peppers instead. My other adjustment was to NOT stir-fry with sesame oil. I am not sure what they were thinking there, but sesame oil has a low smoke point and using it for high-temperature stir-frying would be a sure way to smoke up your kitchen and set off your smoke alarm! Who wants to throw their windows open in the freezing cold winter and madly hop around trying to shut off the smoke alarm? Me neither! So instead let’s use an oil with a high smoke point such as grapeseed or canola oil, and just add some sesame oil at the end for flavor. I prefer grapeseed oil for stir-frying because it’s less processed than canola, so that’s what I’m using here, but you can use any high-smoke-point oil you like.
To press tofu, I use this EZ Tofu Press, but you can also cover a plate with a thick layer of paper towels, place the tofu on the paper towels, place another plate on top of the tofu, and weight it down with a can of something. Just let it press for about 20 minutes while you’re prepping the other ingredients. Is it worth it? YES – it removes excess water so the tofu will become crispy when you stir-fry it!
Some stir-frying tips: Contrary to how it looks on cooking shows and in restaurants, you don’t want to constantly stir and toss the stir-fry. They do it that way because their flame is like 800 degrees hotter than your one at home. Instead, get your wok and oil nice and hot, add your food, give it one stir to coat it with oil, and let it cook untouched on the hot wok surface for about 1/2 the total wok time described in the recipe, THEN do your stirring to crisp up the other side. If you see a nice caramelization or char happening on a few pieces, that is what you want. It’s called “the kiss of the wok” and it’s what makes wok-based cooking so beloved around the world! But it won’t happen if you’re in there crazily tossing and turning, plus some of your nicely prepped ingredients will break apart. So have patience, young padawan.
- 2 T. grapeseed oil, divided
- 1 c. raw cashews
- 1 16-oz package firm tofu, pressed to remove excess water and cut into bite-sized cubes
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1 c. sliced carrots
- 1 medium Asian pear, quartered, each quarter halved, and thinly sliced
- ½ c. sliced celery
- 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced (save a few slices for garnish, if you like)
- 2 T. hoisin sauce
- 1 T. dark sesame oil
- 1 T. low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 T. rice vinegar
- Daikon radish spouts for garnish, optional (these aren't easy to find but they're in the photo - aren't they cute?)
- Mix up your stir-fry sauce to be added at the end: Whisk together the hoisin sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a small bowl.
- Get out two dinner-sized plates for holding the cashews and tofu once they are done being stir-fried. (You want to use plates, not bowls, because the cashews and tofu each need to be in a single layer so they don't steam while waiting for the rest of your stir-fry to be done.)
- Heat your wok over high heat (no oil). Once it's hot, add your raw cashews to toast them. Let them sit about 1 min in the hot wok, then stir and cook until you see some toasty spots (just 2-3 minutes total). Remove the cashews to a dinner-sized plate.
- Add 1 T. oil to the wok and heat over high heat until shimmering. Add tofu with a little bit of salt and some red pepper flakes to taste, give it a stir, and then let the tofu cook for about 5 min. Stir once, so the brown sides are on top, and let cook another 5 min (for 10 min total cooking time). Remove the tofu to a dinner-sized plate.
- Heat remaining 1 T. oil over high heat until shimmering. Add carrots and stir-fry 2 minutes total. Add Asian pear and celery and stir-fry 2 minutes total. Add garlic and green onions, and stir-fry 1 minute total.
- Return tofu and cashews to the wok with the veggies. Pour your stir-fry sauce (that you made earlier) around the outside edges of the wok and enjoy the sizzle. Stir together until all is heated through and sauce is bubbly. Enjoy! I like to serve this over brown jasmine or sushi rice.