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Lacquered Tofu with Spinach, Arugula and Black Rice

These addictive caramelized tofu gems over sweet and sour sautéed greens go so well with nutty black rice--you are in for a magical surprise!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 servings.


  • ¾ cup black rice
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 large pinch sea salt
  • 14 ounces (or thereabouts) extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil or other high-heat tolerant oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine (mirin)
  • 2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon Real Salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped garlic scapes , or 1 garlic clove
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 to 4 ounces arugula
  • 1 or 2 cups pea shoots , coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup


  • Rinse the rice. Bring it to a boil in the saucepan with the water and salt. Lower the heat to a weak simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut the tofu crosswise into six (1/2-inch) rectangles. Press out excess water: place the tofu triangles in a large shallow dish on top of a clean tea towel (without terrycloth nubs.) Fold the towel over the tofu. Place a second dish on top, one that fits inside the first, and put something heavy in the dish–I use my blender. After 5 or 10 minutes the tea towels will have absorbed excess water, and the tofu pieces will be easy to pick up. Cut the rectangles into cubes, more or less ½ to ¾-inch square.
  • Heat the peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toss in the tofu cubes, making sure each cube is touching the oil/pan. Let the tofu cook, resisting the urge to move it, 5 to 8 minutes until golden on that side. Turn and cook another side. Remove to paper towels and set aside. Don’t wash the skillet, unless it wasn’t truly non-stick; you will use it for the tofu lacquering.
  • While the tofu and rice cook, in a small bowl mix the rice wine vinegar, rice wine, agave syrup, ginger, a tablespoon of the tamari, sesame oil, red pepper and salt.
  • Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of the peanut oil in a second skillet over medium-high flame. Add the garlic scapes and cook and stir about 5 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and arugula. You may need to add these greens in stages, stirring and allowing time for them to wilt. Pour the rice vinegar mixture over the greens and cook and stir to coat well.
  • Check the rice. If there is no liquid remaining and the rice is completely cooked, stir the rice into the greens mixture. Toss in the pea shoots and heat through.
  • In the tofu skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of tamari and the 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. When the syrup is bubbling, toss in the cooked tofu cubes. Cook and stir until the cubes are glazed.
  • To serve, transfer the rice and greens to a serving bowl. Pour the lacquered tofu on top.


Adapted from Caramelized Golden Tofu recipe in Deborah Madison's cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.