My father was and is a peddler of dental hygiene. As such, he had two requests of me upon my move from the United States to England 15 years ago: do not flunk out of university abroad (I had a track record of being an awful student of multiple institutions) and find a dentist when you arrive. We always joked in my family that I had inherited my father’s awful teeth. Indeed, I can’t recall a single childhood dental checkup that didn’t end with the announcement of a cavity, and my first root canal treatment was on my 18th birthday.
In reality what I inherited was his love of all things fortified with copious amounts of sugar. My diet was based on my company and so as a teenager and young adult I too developed an infatuation with all things sweet. That and growing up with a pantry that was forever bountifully packed with soda meant I wasn’t introduced to water as a beverage until my early twenties, which is precisely when I packed up and transferred my life to Blighty.
In my fifteen years of life in Britain, an existence mostly sans soda, I’ve had one new cavity at most, something the dentist I eventually found attributed to the elimination of fizzy drinks from my diet. Incidentally he’s my favourite because he also advised me against the semi-annual abrasive oral power sanding everyone insists all humans ought to endure to be real grown ups with respectable pearly whites.
I realise this post is starting to read like an introduction to a superfoods smoothie book for people who believe yoga is a personality type, but rest assured I don’t believe in sugar detoxes or clean eating (as opposed to what? Are #cleaneating champions routinely served meals spiked with dirt?). Sometimes when my high fructose corn syrup levels measure low (the internet taught me that being vegan makes me both a certified nutritionist and that anything I believe or say is intrinsically factual) I still replenish them with swig or 18 of pop. Mostly, however, I literally eat sugar by the spoon from the jar. I’m on a fast track to #gettheglow.
Also worth mentioning is that I learned to make up for the nutritional deficiency caused by eliminating Dr Pepper from my diet by eating something deep fried most days of the week. All of the lost sugar came to be replaced by nourishing oil instead, with the occasional top up of a wholesome chip butty.
I just stopped drinking tonnes of soda and in hindsight it was a reasonable choice for practical reasons, but that doesn’t mean I am anti toxic nasty body-harming sugar oh my god it’s time for a juice cleanse brb. A case in point is the recipe below, which was inspired by the random bottle of cola left in the fridge in my short term Bangkok flat.
Coffee Cola Fried Tofu
Ever since trying the coffee enhanced cola by Fritz-Kola, I have been a convert of that flavour combination. If the syrup seems a little sickly, don’t worry because the lime you add at the end will help to cut through both the sweetness and the oil. While I have listed several ingredients as optional, they are recommended – especially the Thai basil. The sauce can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated.
- 75 grams white granulated sugar
- 60 millilitres (¼ cup) cola
- 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
- 2 tablespoons seasoning sauce or Maggi
- ½ tablespoon white vinegar or chilli vinegar
- 300 grams soft tofu (not silken)
- 50 grams all purpose flour
- 100 millilitres ice cold water
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Freshly squeezed lime
- Add the sugar, cola, coffee, seasoning sauce, and vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a low boil for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar. The syrup should be quite runny and thin, but sticky. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Add the flour and ice water to a bowl and mix just to combine – a few lumps are okay.
- Heat at least an inch of oil in a wok to medium high heat.
- Drain tofu of excess water and cut into large chunks. Coat the tofu pieces in the flour sludge and add to the oil, frying until crispy and lightly browned, for about 3-5 minutes. If the oil isn’t deep enough to cover the tofu, be sure to agitate and flip the curds so they are evenly fried. Fry the tofu in small batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, draining on kitchen roll when done.
- Pile the tofu onto a plate or into a bowl and pour the syrup over. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the lot and garnish with any or all of the optional (but recommended) ingredients.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves 2-3, with rice
- Cuisine: Thai European Fusion