This Plant-Based for Two recipe creates a sweet & savory orange sauce inside of a parchment paper packet with perfectly steamed vegetables. Just bake alongside your panko encrusted tofu and pour it over when it's all done!
Let's be super upfront here - this is a very westernized version of an already westernized Chinese dish. Most of what we think of, as non Chinese-Americans, when we think of Chinese food isn't exactly traditional to Chinese culture. Many of these beloved dishes are Americanized adaptions of traditional dishes and some of them are unique to The United States all together. Take Orange Chicken for example. This Chinese-American classic is said to have been invented right here in the US by Chef Andy Kao working as the executive chef for Panda Express. This was the late 1980's! He's said to have developed it to appease the same folks who love another Chinese-American classic - General Tso's Chicken. Some say that the dish itself is just a deep fried and super sweet version of another more authentic recipe originating in Hunan. These dishes were inspired by Chinese culinary tradition of balancing sweet, savory, and sour flavors - amplified to suit the American palate.
Chinese-Americans created a style of cooking that was unique to them and to their truth as American immigrants. Though much of it may not be popular within China itself, it tells a story of survival, entrepreneurship, & ingenuity. It shouldn't come as a surprise to literally anyone that we, as the United States, have a long history of Xenophobia. Especially when it comes to folks who don't have European (white) features or traditions. Chinese-Americans were no exception to this cruelty and continue to experience racism today. The strategic creation of the Chinese-American cooking style was developed as a means of survival in the face of adversity. Today, you can often find a beautiful fusion of traditional Chinese cuisine and Chinese-American classics in local Chinese restaurants - both authentic in their own way and both with stories that matter.
For this recipe, we'll be baking our tofu right beside our vegetables while they steam en papillote. This is a french method of steaming vegetables, and often fish, in parchment paper. Since the creator of Orange Chicken, Chef Andy Kao, was classically trained in french cooking - it just feels kind of proper. Below is an image of how it's traditionally done, but in order for us to make our sauce in the pouch we're gonna shake it up a bit - not literally. We're going to use two pieces of parchment paper and a pie dish! Using a pie dish for assembly creates a well for us to pour our sauce and veggies into and then fold the sides - making a perfect little parchment bowl. We then remove it from the dish and bake it right next to our tofu. Because we're using two circle cuts of parchment instead of one, the folding will vary slightly - but is very similar to what's below. We're going to make our first fold by just simply folding the edge over and under onto itself and then completely the small diagonal folds all the way around.
Crispy Orange Tofu & Steamed Vegetables En Papillote
Author: Megan Thompson Aston
Time: 35-40 minutes
1/4 of a medium onion
1 carrot, chopped thin & at an angle
1/2 of a red or green bell pepper, sliced into strips
3 mushrooms, cut in half
6 sugar snap peas
or 2 cups of any preferred veggies
1/2 16 oz block of tofu, split through the middle & halved into triangles
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/4 cup of panko, regular or gluten-free
1 tsp sesame oil
For Orange Sauce
1 tbsp + 2 tsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp ginger, dry & ground
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp salt + to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup white rice
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat your oven to 350
Prepare and chop your vegetables. Set aside.
Cut two circles out of parchment with a diameter as large as the sides will allow. 15 inches is best. Set aside
Line 1/2 of a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Press as much excess liquid out of your tofu by wrapping it in paper towels on a cutting board and laying something with a bit of weight on it. Alternatively, you can use a tofu press. Set aside while pressing or after pressing to work on your seasoned panko breading.
For the seasoned panko breading, combine all your dry ingredients with a spoon until evenly dispersed: nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, arrowroot/cornstarch, & panko. While mixing, use your spoon to press and crush bits of your panko into a finer crumb. You'll want really small and large panko crumbs. This will help completely encrust the tofu when the time comes. Pour onto a plate. Set aside.
Unwrap your pressed tofu and brush each piece with sesame oil on all sides.
One at a time, transfer your tofu to your seasoned panko and completely cover it - gently pressing the seasoned panko into the tofu.
Transfer to the part of our large baking sheet that's lined with parchment paper.
Drizzle with avocado oil and set aside.
For Orange Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together all your ingredients: Rice vinegar, white vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, orange juice, ginger, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and cornstarch. Set aside.
En Papillote Assembly
Place one of your pieces on parchment paper into a 12-inch pie pan.
Place vegetables into the center and allow them to weight the paper down into the pan. You should have at least a good 1 1/2 inch edge of parchment paper sticking out.
Pour your orange sauce mixture over top of your vegetables.
Take your second piece of parchment paper and place it over the top of your vegetables.
Fold the edges of your parchment together in a similar manner to the illustration above. Since we're working in a circle, you'll want to start your folding/sealing by creating a tightly rolled straight edge and then going on around from there. Make sure you're working in tight and small folds.
Once folded, transfer your parchment packet out of the pie pan and onto the other side of your large sheet pan.
Baking & Rice Cooking
Place your sheet pan into the oven and bake for 25-30 mins depending on how steamed you want your vegetables. At 25 mins, they will still have a bit of a bite to them.
While vegetables are cooking, start your rice on the stove top in a small pot.
Bring the salted water to a boil. Add rice. Cover and bring to a boil again. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the water is absorbed and you see air holes in your rice. Remove from heat and allow it to continue to steam covered.
Once your vegetables are done, remove the pan from the oven and transfer your parchment packet onto a heat resistant surface. Do not cut open.
Set your oven to medium broil and place the pan with the tofu back inside.
Watch carefully and allow the tofu to become crispy and golden. I've found the timing differs. So, just pay close attention. The parchment paper may brown. Keep it away from direct heat.
Once it's reached a crispy golden brown, remove it from the open.
With two large plates ready, divide the rice between the two plates.
Cut open your parchment packet and transfer all the veggies on top of the size. Leaving the extra sauce. Set aside.
Place your panko encrusted tofu on top of your rice and veggies.
Then, pour the extra orange sauce over the entire dish. Fold the parchment in half and use your hands to press out any left behind sauce.
Finish with a shake of sesame seeds and green onion and enjoy!
You can easily break apart or cut your tofu into nuggets if you'd like to enjoy the dish that way. All other instructions would still apply.