Best Ever Crispy, Smoky (no-oink) Fakon


'Fakon' I hear you say, 'you mean, like fake bacon?' Yes. Just like that :) But in my opinion, way better than any shop-bought version, which is the kind of product I've always looked at with a deep furrow in my brow. Too many ingredients for me!

And that goes for most 'meat-imitating’ foods. They seem very process-heavy to me – something I don't like to base my diet around. Seeing those packets of streaky 'veggie bacon' in the health food shop where I worked in my early London days I thought 'If you've chosen not to eat meat, why want stuff that looks and tastes like it?'. 

I still agree on this. To a point. I believe there's a sense to why many people love eating something like bacon. We instinctively love the taste of something crispy, rich, salty, smoky .. Perhaps it is our thousands of years of evolution where this kind of eating sensation meant we were going to get comfortably full that day, and get lots of energy for lives that most probably were much more physically strenuous than now! 

All those million years of crisping our catch on a bonfire .. surely that's affected our tastebuds!

All those million years of crisping our catch on a bonfire .. surely that's affected our tastebuds!

So, as a sensation, and as a component of a meal, something crispy, rich, salty and smoky (that also happens to be rich in proteins), is a very valid 'craving'. 

Enter plant-based crispy-salty richness!

Pan-fried Fakon topping on a quinoa and rucola salad.

Pan-fried Fakon topping on a quinoa and rucola salad.

Crispy-salty is the type of meal component which, used in small amounts along with ‘bulkier/blander' ingredients (most vegetables and grains) will make those ingredients sing, adds nutritional extras and most probably will make you enjoy your meal even more.

I have quite a few versions of this craving-worthy meal ingredient. They usually involve some concentrated protein/fat, (eg nuts and seeds), something salty, and heating up of some kind. For my Fakon, I fry firm smoked tofu, salt, garlic and smoked paprika powder in oil. Ingredients notes are below the recipe.

You can use your Fakon in any savoury dish: as a warm topping to leafy salads or steamed vegetables, stirred into gluten free pasta, noodles or grains, in savoury breakfasts, on avocado toast .. You can cut in them in different shapes; sticks, slices – just remember thinner is better as you want it pretty much crisped right through.

As with conventional bacon, Fakon is not something to make a daily habit out of as it’s fried for a long while in hot oil. But as a treat; to add a little umpf to weekday meals or a weekend breakfast, I find this pretty irresistible! 

Recipe: Best ever, Crispy Smoky (no-oink) Fakon – in a pan

Approximate measurements for two people when used as a topping to salad or pasta. Adjust to your own appetite and taste.

For an oven-baked version, see below!

Ingredients

Smoked tofu cut in small (3 mm) cubes or stamp-sized slices (3 mm thick), 30-50g per person
Oil for frying, 1/4-1/2 tablespoon per person
Quality salt, to taste
Garlic granules, 1 pinch to 1/4 tsp per person – or one clove fresh garlic
Smoked paprika powder, 1/4-1/2 tsp per person

Optional extras: Chili flakes, finely chopped parsley or herbs of your choice, liquid smoke

How to make

1. Start by cutting your tofu into the shape you like. In the images I've used small cubes which are great as a topping for pasta or grains. For a salad I would use a bigger cut.

Shiso Delicious | Best Ever Crispy, Smoky (no-oink) Fakon

2. In a frying pan, fry your tofu on the lowest heat possible, stirring every now and then. Add in a small amount of salt from the start. Once the tofu has a little bit of colour, add the garlic granules (the garlic may burn if it's fried for too long). Also add extras; chili flakes, finely chopped herbs.

If you are using fresh garlic, slice your garlic in half and rub it around your pan BEFORE adding oil or tofu. Or you can fry the two halves for a minute in the oil and remove them before adding the tofu. The idea is to get an even, savoury flavour without visible chunks of garlic and too much of an over-powering garlic flavour.

Shiso Delicious | Best Ever Crispy, Smoky (no-oink) Fakon

3. The secret is to fry on lowest heat for quite a while, while stirring occasionally. For that Fakony taste, you need to be pretty generous with salt! Keep adding small amounts of salt, along with more garlic granules so the tofu have a chance to really soak up the flavours. Depending on how big your Fakon pieces are and which type of oil you use, it may take 5 to 15 minutes. 

Shiso Delicious | Best Ever Crispy, Smoky (no-oink) Fakon

4. Once your Fakon is starting to look ready, add smoked paprika powder and/or liquid smoke. Paprika is best added towards the end of frying as it burns quite easily, which gives it a bitter flavour. Mix it in well for a few moments. Your Fakon is then ready to devour immediately!

Fakon topping on gluten free corn spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Fakon topping on gluten free corn spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Fakon in the Oven:

Another, less oily way of making Fakon, is to add firm smoked tofu in stamp-sized slices (ca 3mm thick), or matchstick shape, to your pan when you roast or grill vegetables. You can drizzle the tofu with a little olive oil and seasoning before they go in the oven, or just chuck them in as they are. Depending on how long your vegetables need in the oven, you can add the tofu in towards the end not to burn. Spread them thinly on top of your veggies. They need about 10 minutes under the grill to become tasty, or a little longer for a more chewy crunchy texture.

Fakon roasted in the oven and served on a massive platter of greens, homemade rucola/brazil nut pesto, fresh herbs, kiwi, olives, pink pepper, goji berries, edible flowers and a side of Rose Harissa Beetroot Lentil Pate and purple rice.

Fakon roasted in the oven and served on a massive platter of greens, homemade rucola/brazil nut pesto, fresh herbs, kiwi, olives, pink pepper, goji berries, edible flowers and a side of Rose Harissa Beetroot Lentil Pate and purple rice.

Notes on Ingredients:

Tofu: For my pan-fried Fakon I use a firm, dry type of smoked tofu which comes in a block and can be cut thin and still keep its shape. My favourite kind to make Fakon is the German brand Vilana: 'Real Smoked Tofu’. Another german brand, Taifun: 'Smoked Tofu' also works well. 

For oven-grilled Fakon, I like using Taifun, any of their 'Smoked Tofu' in blocks.

Vilana Smoked Tofu.

Vilana Smoked Tofu.

Garlic granules: I enjoy the sweeter, caramelised garlic flavour of granules for this recipe. Good quality granules have been gently dried which concentrates and mellows their flavour and gives a more 'mature' garlic flavour.

Smoked paprika: The smoked paprika combined with garlic is what makes this killer flavour combo! I use a Spanish brand of sweet smoked paprika, widely available in the UK, La Chinata.

Shiso Delicious | Best Ever Crispy, Smoky (no-oink) Fakon

Frying oil: I like using extra virgin Olive oil for my Fakon as it doesn't get as hot as other oils, meaning the tofu will fry slower = stay a little more 'chewy'. I've tried other oils with higher smoke point; e.g. grape seed oil – using this will cook your Fakon quicker and make it more crunchy.

If you have any comments on this recipe and/or want to share your version, I'd love to hear from you here or on social media. It's always so exciting so see my recipes come alive! On social media, tag your creations #shisodelicious so I can find you  

Much love, Sara x