CRISPY SKIN STUFFED TOFU
Cui Pei Doufu, or crispy skin stuffed tofu, was a meal my parents usually ordered when we made the trip from upstate New York to Chinatown.
With a small mound of ground shrimp filling on top, these tiny bricks of tofu are crispy on the exterior and soft and delicate within after being stuffed and deep-fried.
A CANTONESE DISH THAT IS DISAPPEARING
I don’t recall ever seeing this meal on a menu in China, and it’s been long since I last had it. I’m not sure why I didn’t find it sooner, or if it was invented in the United States by immigrant chefs.
Tofu packed with crispy skin may seem pricey if you’ve ever had it at a Cantonese restaurant, but it’s worth it. Even though it’s a relatively simple dish, it costs the same as a meat dish. Even so, when you’re out to dine, a few more dollars for a delectable dish are nothing to complain about.
For the sole reason that the more economical (and usually older) customers would complain about the price when we used to have it at our favorite Chinatown Cantonese restaurants, I thought I’d bring it up. Good old-fashioned, thrifty immigrant grandparents are here to help you out!
That’s how we got our hands on the crispy skin stuffed tofu—even back then, kids still had it in them!
We were eager to make it at home and document the process for posterity. A quarter or less of the stuffing is typically used in restaurant versions of this dish, maybe to emphasize the flavor of the tofu or increase profit margins, but you can use as much or as little of the stuffing in this recipe as you like.
Toss a few of these tenders with a light soy dipping sauce, then serve them with a side of white rice, if desired. The crispy skin stuffed tofu inside is quite hot, so be careful when you eat it! I hope you’ll appreciate this one!
Note: “Soft tofu” must be used. Some people confuse silken tofu with soft tofu, but soft tofu is too delicate for this recipe, while firm tofu is too hefty and substantial.
The texture of the tofu is perfect.
The Chinese tofu and bean curd page on our website is a great resource if you get lost in the refrigerated department of your Asian grocery store.
- 170g of peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1½ teaspoon of cornstarch
- 1¼ teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of oil
- ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon of Shaoxing wine
- Fresh ground white pepper
- 450g of soft tofu
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 4 cups of oil
- 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of chopped scallions
- ¼ teaspoon of dark soy sauce
- Shrimp should be finely minced into a paste using a cleaver or knife. This procedure comprises chopping the shrimp paste, folding it over and into itself, and then chopping some more. We applied the same method in our recipe for Dim Sum Stuffed Peppers. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the bowl with the shrimp paste. Then thoroughly mix.
- Drain the extra water as you carefully take the soft tofu from the carton. To obtain 10 tofu blocks, split the block in half lengthwise and then into five equally sized pieces on each side.
- Place the tofu pieces on a dish or sheet pan after that. On a small plate, pour 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Then, using a measuring spoon, scoop 1 teaspoon of the filling, dipping the open end into the cornstarch to coat it. Each tofu block should have a spoonful of filling in the center, cornstarch side down. The filling will “glue” to the tofu thanks to this cornstarch. Repeat nine more times with the remaining tofu pieces.
- Once all of the fillings has been added, carefully sift the remaining cornstarch over the tofu after pouring it into a sieve. You will receive an extra crispy top coating as a result.
- Heat 4 cups of oil to 375 degrees in a wok or small saucepan. Mix the dipping sauce while the oil heats.
- Take a block of tofu and delicately push it into the oil using a metal spatula. Several at a time can be fried, but watch out for the oil temperature fluctuating. They should be fried for two to four minutes, turning them gently as necessary to ensure even cooking. When they are fully cooked, remove them with a metal spatula or slotted spoon so they can drain on a platter covered in paper towels. If you’d prefer, you can season them with salt or just eat them with the dipping sauce. The tofu will crack open if you salt it before frying, and you’ll have a bit of a mess on your hands.
- Serve with the sauce on the side after being transferred to a serving platter!