Everyone–we sincerely hope–knows the delight of that first bite of hot po’ boy: the fried oysters bursting between your teeth, the crackle of flaky bread, the tang of mustard and mayonnaise against the soft interior of the loaf. There are, in our humble opinion, few pleasures in life as pure. The po’ boy is a superlative example of comfort food. The reported origin of the sandwich is appropriately comforting as well. As a free meal distributed to striking streetcar conductors, it provided welcome support to the “poor boys” out of work just before the beginning of the Great Depression. As you would expect, the sandwich can be made with exceptionally cheap ingredients, providing the maximum amount of energy and flavor at a limited cost. The basis of this meal is a fresh, crunchy loaf of bread with a pillowy-soft center, onto which is traditionally layered mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and as much seafood or meat as you could desire. Fried chicken, shrimp, catfish, ham–you name it, and it’s a legitimate po’ boy filling.
Being adventurous Californians, we chose a riff on the original featuring local flavors and foods. A tour of Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland inspired us to find recipes for all of their products, and this seemed to be the ideal opportunity to try out their firm tofu. A quick search located a recipe for edamame-tofu fritters that would exploit the texture of the tofu, while simultaneously appealing to our West Coast sensibilities. We also decided to replace the usual French bread with oven-crisped bolillos from our neighborhood Mexican grocery (shout-out to Mi Tierra!), and instead of the expected lettuce/tomato combination, we used a favorite slaw recipe from Cooking Light magazine that calls for cilantro and jalapeños. In honor of the New Orleanian birthplace of the po’ boy, a remoulade–spiced up with Californian cult hot sauce Sriracha–stood in for mayo and mustard. With homemade quick pickles and the requisite avocado slices, we were looking at a stellar sandwich.
This combination turned out to be an excellent choice, not only because the flavors were divine together, but because the components were all easy to make. After prep work, it was simply a matter of tossing together the slaw, the remoulade ingredients, and the pickle fixin’s. This left us time to devote ourselves to the fritters. And devote ourselves, we did. Hodo’s firm tofu provided a mouthwatering base for the edamame and shiitake additions, all of which came together with a bit of flour, salt, and egg to form dense, charmingly green patties. Tipping each one carefully into the hot oil, we breathed in the smell of frying tofu and watched as the bubbling edges turned golden before our eyes.
The only warning that we feel the need to provide is that caution is required in the construction of this sandwich. We all know it will fall to pieces once started, but a generous application of remoulade and a careful layering of the avocado, fritters (three will fit comfortably), slaw, and pickles will ensure that each bite delivers the same euphoric first-bite happiness we expect from a po’ boy.
Edamame Tofu Fritters (recipe from Cook Tells a Story food blog)
- Hodo Soy firm tofu, about 14oz (any firm tofu will do if you can’t find Hodo)
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup edamame, shelled
- 4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
- 4 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
Wrap tofu with a clean cloth or paper towels and put in on a cutting board. Place another cutting board or plate on top of the tofu to press out the water, about 20 minutes. Put tofu, egg, salt, and flour in the food processor. Process to make a paste. Add the edamame and shiitake mushrooms.
In a cast iron pan, heat oil to 250-275F. With slightly wet or oiled hands, make tofu into balls about the size of a golf ball. This recipe should make about a dozen fritters. Slowly drop into the heated oil and deep fry tofu balls slowly until they are golden. Drain well on paper towel. This recipe easily makes enough for four, even if you’re very hungry.
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp black peppercorn
- 2tsp mustard seed
- 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
Combine all ingredients except for cucumbers in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil. Slice cucumbers and place into jar. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumber slices to cover completely. If they are not submerged, add cold water to cover. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Pickles will keep for about 10 days.
Sriracha Remoulade (adapted from Garden & Gun magazine)
- 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tsp chopped shallot
- 1 tsp chopped garlic
- 6 tsp fresh citrus juice (we used lime and orange)
- 3 tbsp Sriracha sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, shallot, garlic, citrus juices, Sriracha, salt, and Worcestershire.
Jalapeno Lime Slaw (adapted from Cooking Light)
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 1 tsp sugar (we used honey)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- half head of red cabbage, half head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced thinly
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Gradually add olive oil, stirring constantly. Add onion, cilantro, cabbage, and jalapenos. Toss well to coat.