The Washington Post

Tofu 65

Tofu 65 2.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Weeknight Vegetarian Oct 24, 2021

Here’s an easier, less messy path to crunchy, spicy tofu: author Piyanka Naik’s vegan version of the popular South Indian dish Chicken 65. By coating the tofu in a slurry made of cornstarch and oil, you cut down on the oil needed for pan-frying. Then, you coat it in a sauce that’s packed with pungent heat. Serve with rice, noodles, or on top of greens.

Total time: 40 mins

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Where to Buy: Black mustard seeds, Kashmiri chile powder, and Sichuan or Kashmiri chiles can be found in Indian or many international markets, in well-stocked grocery stores or online.

2 - 4

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 2-4 servings

  • 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or another neutral oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 whole dried Sichuan or Kashmiri red chiles
  • 1 small red onion (6 ounces), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • One (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chile powder (may substitute New Mexican or any other spicy red chile powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Fine sea salt, if needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems and leaves


Wrap the tofu in a clean dish towel and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Unwrap, rewrap with a fresh towel, and repeat. (This gets rid of excess liquid and is faster than pressing the tofu.) Unwrap, and slice the tofu into 1-inch cubes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of oil until smooth. Add the tofu and toss until thoroughly coated.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 teaspoon of oil until shimmering. Add the tofu pieces carefully (they might splatter) and cook until golden brown and crispy on each side, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Using the same skillet (leaving any tofu/cornstarch bits in it) still over medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to coat the skillet. Add the mustard seeds and red chiles. Cook until the popping of the mustard seeds subsides, about 30 seconds. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion softens and starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chile powder and turmeric, then stir in the soy sauce and water and cook just until incorporated, a few seconds.

Add the sugar and tofu and toss to coat thoroughly, then turn off the heat. Taste, and season with salt, if needed, then toss with the cilantro. Serve hot.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from “The Modern Tiffin” by Priyanka Naik (Tiller Press, 2021).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at

Avg. Rating (1)

Rate this recipe

Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (1 cup tofu with sauce), based on 4: 221

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 16g 25%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 150mg 6%

Total Carbohydrates: 11g 4%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 3g

Protein: 11g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

Most Read Lifestyle