- 1 pound firm ("hard") tofu, cotton-type (not silken), cut into 3/4" cubes
- 1 quart peanut oil, for frying
- 1 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (tapioca starch works here, too -- you may need a bit more to get the right batter consistency)
- 1/4 cup potato starch (or just use another 1/4 cup cornstarch; I like potato starch's lightness but it's not essential if you don't have it on hand)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder (not onion salt)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
line a half-sheet pan (or any large, shallow baking dish) with paper towels or clean, lint-free kitchen towels. lay out the tofu cubes evenly, then cover with more paper towels or another clean kitchen towel. place another half-sheet pan (or similarly-sized large, flat dish) on top, then add a heavy bowl, books, or a few bricks to weight the tofu down. set that aside for about 30 minutes to press out excess water.
heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large wok or french oven. combine the water, cornmeal, corn starch, potato starch (if used), 1/4 cup of the flour, baking powder, salt, onion powder, paprika and ground cumin in a large bowl, and whisk thoroughly. the batter should be slightly thicker than heavy cream (or latex paint); add a bit more flour if needed. don't let it get as thick as muffin batter, though, or it will be too coat the tofu too thickly and won't cook up right. tip the tofu pieces into the batter and toss them gently with your fingers to coat thoroughly.
when oil is hot, add the battered tofu carefully, lifting out one piece at a time with your fingers (which will automatically let excess batter drip back into the bowl). don't over-crowd the pieces in the oil -- allow a bit of room between the pieces (in my large French oven, it takes about three batches to fry all the tofu). once you've added enough pieces, set a timer for 5 minutes, and occasionally stir through & break apart any pieces that stick together while frying. when done, scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on a half-sheet pan (or other similar vessel) lined with clean, dry paper towels or kitchen towels.