tofu with five spices, coconut sugar & baby basil

9th July 2009


As a Christmas present, Ben and I were given a beautiful Taiwanese cookbook from Ben’s sister, Sarah and her husband, Phil.  The book is a collection of recipes by Jade & Muriel Chen, a mother and daughter team from Blue Eye Dragon, a Taiwanese restaurant in Pyrmont, Sydney.  Sarah and Phil took us there when we were visiting, as the daughter is a friend of Sarah’s.  Before that time, I can’t recall experiencing Taiwanese dishes, and this dinner was one of those memorable food moments.  Who would believe something as simple and bland as choy sum could taste so good? Very fresh, simple flavours and delicious.  As you can imagine, I was very thrilled to receive their cookbook when it was published last year.

It is a beautifully presented book with clearly set-out recipes that are easy to follow.  Ingredients that may be unfamiliar are explained fully in the glossary with reasons for their use.  I have tried about 6 of their recipes and my favourite would have to be the salt and pepper mixture with five spice.  The original recipe the following dish was inspired from was ‘Crispy Chicken with Basil and Five Spice.’  I discovered the coconut sugar in my last health food shop and was keen to experiment with it.  A very successful purchase and it will be making regular appearances in future posts.  Of course, you can replace it with cane sugar if you prefer.

five spice tofu with coconut sugar & baby basil

Sweet potato flour, also known as tapioca flour gives a crispier texture to fried foods.  (A very useful tip from the book).  It is available from large supermarkets, Indian/Asian speciality stores.  Coconut sugar is produced from coconut palm blossoms by kettle boiling to crystallise the sugar content.  It is organic, unfiltered, unbleached and preservative free.  It has a crisp, fine texture, caramel in colour and toffee-like in taste and is available from health food stores.


about 3 tsp salt and pepper, five spice mixture (See recipe below)

1 x 300g block tofu, cut into cubes

2 Tbsp sweet potato flour (tapioca flour)

peanut oil

coconut sugar (white sugar was in original recipe)

a handful of baby basil leaves


1.  For the Salt and Pepper Mixture, combine 4 tab salt, 2 tab coconut sugar and 1 tab ground white pepper in a spice grinder and blend well. (Leftover can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months)

These were the original quantities from the book, however, I only ever make half the mixture.  White sugar was used in their recipe.

2.  Combine 3 tsp of the salt and pepper mixture to ½ tsp five-spice powder. Add a good pinch of potato flour.

3.  Toss the tofu in this mixture and let stand for a few minutes.

4.  Heat the oil in a wok. While heating, toss the tofu pieces in potato flour and let rest for a minute before frying.

5.  Fry tofu pieces in batches until brown and crisp.  Drain on paper towelling.

6.  Toss in a bowl with coconut sugar, baby basil leaves and extra salt and pepper mixture to taste.

Serve with soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free) as a side or rice and steamed greens with a sesame dressing.


           Shared goodness from Donna

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