General Tso’s tofu is one of my favorite dishes served in North American Chinese restaurants. Often I see it made with deep-fried tofu chunks, broccoli and a sugary sweet sauce. Because I have a complicated relationship with sugar, I make my own sauce. My new version below is oil-free and low in salt. I made a few replacements, and the result is festive! It’s still sweet, but the sugar substitutes are much easier on the body’s blood sugar levels. It’s my new take on General Tso’s tofu. I call it Holiday Tsofu.
Comfort food and General Tso’s tofu
It’s Nov. 5, Friday morning of Election 2020 week. As I sit here, looking down at my late breakfast – or early lunch, depending on your view – I note that I’ve slipped into a bit of anxious thinking about the election 2020 that only a big bowl of comfort food can soothe. I’m about to dig into my comfort leftovers, my new holiday dish. I coined it, “Holiday Tsofu.”
How Holiday Tsofu emerged from General Tso’s Tofu
I’ve been cooking and baking this week to ward off the waves of nervous fidgeting that fluctuate with bursts of dance. One moment in the news I’m seeing the promising and growing lead of a voice of reason, the next I see zany claims of a desperado. It was my AVF partner Susanne that suggested some comfort food with a tasty sauce.
When my friend Susanne told me that her elderly mother in Denmark was following the US election closely, it gave me new pause – pause to realize either we are that important globally, or this has been the Best. Soap Opera. Ever.
As Jimmy Kimmel asks, can’t we catch a break and have just one boring day?
To be honest, I did not think I would invest this much time and thought into the election. And I’ll be the first to admit that spending this much time trolling the news feed is not so healthy. Yet no one will deny, in years and decades to come, that this was a most remarkable time in US history.
So caring about good nutrition is part of, not just my therapy, my maintenance.
I love it when something creative blossoms out of stressful weeks. Let me tell you about how the Holiday Tsofu came about.
While chatting with Susanne, gossiping about the election (yes, confessions help, too) I started wondering what to cook for dinner. She sent me a link to her favorite General Tso’s tofu recipe. I took it into the kitchen.
In his recipe post, Andrew Olson of the One Ingredient Chef points out the dubious history of how the name of the dish came about. Personally, I’m solely interested in its comfort value. I was not daunted, either, by the fact that this recipe is a far cry from one ingredient.
Ingredients are easy to interchange. I’ll tell you what I did. I opened the fridge and started pulling candidates out.
The pre-cut cauliflower florets and block of tofu in the refrigerator would go well together. A half of a large red bell pepper would offer a dash of color. The scallion on the counter would work nicely in place of green onions.
Diabetic considerations for General Tso’s tofu
In the beginning of my post above I mention blood sugar levels. I want to address how important it is for all of us to be aware of how much sugar and salt we ingest, no matter what our age. Unless you are a strict plant-based whole foods eater, chances are you consume a lot of sugar and sodium unwittingly.
Because so many prepared foods are loaded with salt and sugar, we can avoid some of these pitfalls simply by creating our recipes from scratch and making substitutions.
I always at least halve the salt called for in a recipe, or leave it out altogether.
Many people, for example, think it’s a lot easier to buy bottled General Tso dressing. Bottled dressings often have high fructose syrup or some other refined sugar (and not necessarily vegan) as well as high quantities of salt. You have better control of all that, quickly and conveniently with staples in your own cupboard.
Here is my recipe for:
Holiday Tsofu (General Tso's tofu with cauliflower)
- 16 oz firm Tofu (450g)
- ⅓ cup cornmeal (50g)
- 2 Tbsp rice flour or other gluten-free flour
- ⅛ tbsp black pepper or pepper mix
- ¼ tbsp chili powder or cayenne (optional)
- 2 cups cauliflower florets (200g)
- 1 small red bell pepper or ½ large
- 1 small or ½ large shallot (or your choice of onion)
- ¼ cup low-salt soy sauce (60ml)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (in case your seasoned vinegar has sugar in it, cut back on your sweetener to balance it out) (60ml)
- 2 Tbsp maple or date syrup
- Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (I like to grind them)
- Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). I’m going out this weekend to buy an air fryer, which would be great with this recipe.
- Drain and press out excess water from the tofu. Then break it up into bite-sized pieces.
- Mix up the dry coating ingredients in a shallow bowl, Roll the tofu chunks in the coating and place in a baking pan lined with parchment paper.* Bake for a half hour, or until the chunks are golden brown.
- When the tofu is done, prepare the vegetables. Sauté the cauliflower in a pan with a little bit of water. Add the chopped onion and chopped red pepper. Add the sauce and mix it all up, and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Then mix in the tofu chunks until everything is well blended.
- Top with toasted sesame seeds and serve with your favorite rice - I prefer white jasmine or basmati, as my body does not digest brown rice well.