Cooking in the age of Corona can be challenging, even maddening, but also strangely satisfying and creative by turns. Especially at a time when many people have not left their houses in over a month and are outsourcing their grocery list to a heroic Instacart shopper (or if they do venture out, encounter shortages and bare shelves everywhere they turn), the beauty of a well-stocked pantry cannot be overstated.
The secret to the complete cupboard is to build flavor profiles for the cuisines you enjoy. If you like Chinese, think tamari sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili paste, dark toasted sesame oil. If it’s Indian you crave, make sure you have curry paste, garam masala, and coconut milk. And if Mexican is your crush, chipotles in adobo sauce and pinto beans will take you a long way.
Once you ascertain that you have the building blocks for a recipe, look in your crisper drawer for more inspiration. In the age of Corona, I am all about buying seasonal vegetables and using up perishables before they turn to mush. So even though there was no green veg in the original inspiration for this recipe, it made perfect sense in the context of a stir fry.
Since none of us are running out to buy that one elusive ingredient, don’t let the absence of something nonessential, like sesame seeds or scallions, deter you if you have the foundations for a recipe on hand. Even with substitutions or modifications, you can use basic technique with great success, especially in the age of Corona. So even though Sriracha, honey, and tofu all appear in the title of the original source recipe, I’ve tried tofu and tempeh with equally delicious results, subbed in Chinese chili paste for Sriracha, and would happily swap out the honey for agave or maple syrup. With a well-stocked pantry, you can stay home, stay safe, and eat well in the age of Corona.
1 14-oz. package firm tofu or 1 package tempeh
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1 ½ T. Chinese chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 T. tamari sauce
3 T. honey, maple syrup, or agave
2 T. rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1-2 T. water
2 T. cornstarch (for dusting)
3 T. neutral oil (canola or safflower)
1 tsp. dark toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 T. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1-2 scallions, finely chopped (optional)
Green vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli or snow peas, cut into bite size pieces (optional)
For tofu: Wrap tofu in paper towel-lined dishtowel and press for 20 minutes with something heavy like a cast iron skillet. Then cut into bite size cubes. For tempeh: Cut into bite-size cubes and toss with 1-2 T. tamari sauce to season.
- Whisk together garlic, chili paste, tamari sauce, sweetener, and vinegar in a bowl, thin with a little water, and set aside.
- Dust tofu or tempeh carefully with cornstarch until all sides are well coated.
- Heat 1 T. oil to medium-high in a cast iron skillet. When oil is shimmering, add green veg if using, and stir fry just until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes, then remove from pan so it does not continue to cook.
- Add 2 T. oil and when it is shimmering, fry tofu or tempeh cubes until golden brown on all sides. Do not turn until cubes release easily from pan, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Turn heat down to medium, add green veg back to pan, toss gently with just enough sauce to coat everything, and cook for 2-3 minutes until glazed and a little charred. (This is a dry stir fry—the ingredients are meant to be coated in the sauce, not drenched, so start with a few T. and add more as necessary.) Reserve any extra sauce to serve at table.
- Take off heat, add sesame oil and sesame seeds, and stir once more. Remove from pan to a serving plate immediately, garnish with scallions, and serve right away over hot rice.
Inspired by Crispy Honey Sriracha Tofu from PickledPlum.com