Monday, February 08, 2016

Calbee USA

Just in time for Super Bowl snacking, we received not one but two boxes full of goodies from Calbee, a Japanese snack manufacturer that has been around since 1949. Perhaps best known for their shrimp-flavored crackers, they also make potato chips, potato sicks, and snow pea crisps, among other things. Available in Asian grocery stores (of which there are several on the west side of Baltimore County), Calbee snacks offer flavors that are a bit more unusual than the norm.

We immediately dug into the wasabi ranch Snow Pea Crisps and found them to have quite a nice punch of heat. The seaweed and salt chips were the next to be sampled, and we enjoyed their light "of the sea" flavor. Then I thought, as I was binge eating handfuls of the salty treats, we should do something with the snacks, you know, other than, um, binge eat them. Like cook with them.

Our first experiment was to use the hot garlic shrimp chips as a coating for tofu. (We have other ideas that we'll share in later posts.)

Not too hot, but pretty garlick-y, they're my favorite of the shrimp chip flavors, which also includes yuzu and black pepper, wasabi, and plain. All the flavors are definitely shrimpy, but I like that.

I crushed a couple ounces of the shrimp chips and combined them with a pinch of salt and some corn starch, using the resulting mixture to coat cubes of drained firm tofu. While the flavor of the chips was somewhat muted by the process, they lent a super crunch, almost as if the tofu had been deep fried rather than pan fried. With a little mayo-based dipping sauce, the tofu made a tasty dinner when paired with steamed rice and a vegetable. They'd make a great app, too.

Shrimp Chip-Crusted Tofu

(1) 14-to-16-ounce block of firm tofu
Calbee Shrimp Chips
Corn starch
Pinch salt
Oil for frying
2 tablespoons Thai chili paste with basil leaves (Por Kwan or Maesri brand, available at Asian supermarkets)
2 tablespoons mayo, preferably Kewpie
Couple splashes fish sauce

Remove the tofu from its container and blot dry. Wrap in paper towels, put on a plate, and weigh down with an empty saucepan or another plate. After an hour, remove the wet towels and repeat. Refrigerate drained tofu until ready to use.

Crush enough of the shrimp chips into a chunky dust equaling about 1/2 cup. Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and the salt and put on a plate.

Cut the tofu into 1" cubes. Dredge each in the shrimp chip/cornstarch mixture, gently but firmly pressing the shrimp chip bits into the tofu. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the tofu cubes and fry, turning pieces with tongs, until all sides are browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Drain tofu on paper towels.

Stir together the chili paste, mayo, and fish sauce. Serve tofu with sauce for dipping.

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