Being a former chef and also a vegetarian is difficult at times for there are so many amazing restaurants opening within the Grand Rapids area and many are focused on meat.
I don’t have an aversion to meat or meat-based products due to a political agenda; it is simply the right choice for me to maintain my weight and a healthy lifestyle. That being said, bacon still smells amazing, braises, stews, and a beautifully prepared steak do not send me screaming in disgust. I just simply choose not to consume them.
Being vegetarian is problematic at times; many restaurants simply do not cater to the few of us, especially in the Midwest! My typical choices include mac and cheese, veggie quesadilla, grilled cheese and the occasional mushroom based dish. All great options but I do crave protein after a long run or bike ride. Tofu has been an amazing option for my family and me!
Tofu is packed with protein, comes in a variety of firmness from soft to extra firm. The product can be used not only as replacement in texture for meat but also in desserts, smoothies, and baked goods! The process of creating and history of tofu is interesting to say the least. Ancient Japanese and Chinese producer creating tofu by hand by processing the soybeans into a mash and adding salt as a way to solidify the product. Although widely produced in many Asian countries for centuries, tofu did not gain popularity in the United States until the 1970’s. The renewed interest in natural and healthy products and vegetarianism increased the need for a high protein low-fat product. Tofu-filled the need. The U.S. is now one of the top producers of tofu in the world and has become socially acceptable as a way to add protein to many dishes.
The best thing about tofu is its ability to take on the flavors of what it is cooked in. Sweet and peppery five spice tofu highlights the complex flavors of five-spice powder in addition to the bite of crushed pink peppercorns. Five spice powder is a beautiful combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns. The spice brings a decidedly Asian flavor to this dish and is a favorite in our household!
In a small bowl combine the cake and five spice powder. Drain the tofu and place on a paper towel to absorb the moisture. Cut the tofu into slices, you will get approximately five slices out of the package.
Coat the tofu in the cake flour/ five spice mixture. Tap lightly to remove the excess. Place in the preheated pan with canola oil and cook each side until lightly browned. Approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. Continue with the remaining four slices. Remove from pan. Combine the shallots, garlic clove, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water and crushed pink peppercorns in the pan you used for the tofu. Whisk to combine al the ingredients and cook until the mixture becomes thicker and syrup-like in texture.
Add the broccolini to the mixture and cook until the vegetable is tender and turns a rich green in color.
Remove the broccolini from the pan and place on the steamed rice on a plate. Add the sliced tofu and drizzle with the sauce. Garnish with the red chile.