Press the Tofu: Place the tofu between several layers of paper towels, and set on a dinner plate or cutting board. Add a second plate on top, and then weigh it down with a book or some unopened cans (anything heavyish) to gently press the water out of the tofu. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes (up to an hour), then remove and discard the towels.
Marinate the Tofu: While the tofu is being pressed, whisk together the soy sauce, sambal, sesame oil, and honey in a pie pan or similar shallow dish. When the tofu is ready, slice it into approximately 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a single layer in the pie pan, spoon some of the marinade on top, and let the ingredients soak into the tofu for 5 minutes. Flip and marinate for an additional 5 minutes.
Prepare the Sauce: While the tofu is marinating, prepare the sauce ingredients. In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, water, cornstarch, garlic, ginger, sugar, and crushed pepper. Turn the heat on medium and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking to dissolve the cornstarch and prevent lumps. As soon as the sauce begins to bubble and slightly thicken, remove it from the heat so it doesn’t over-reduce. It will be going back on the heat, so it doesn't need to be fully reduced.
Dredge the Tofu: Place the tofu in a large resealable plastic bag, discarding any excess marinade. Add the cornstarch, close the bag, and gently shake the bag and flip it back and forth a few times to evenly coat the tofu.
Cook the Tofu: Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add a thin layer of oil to the bottom (how much will depend on the size of your skillet. I used about 2 tablespoons). Once the oil starts to thin out and shimmer, transfer the tofu to the skillet in a single layer (watch out for splattering oil; I used a slotted spoon to do this, which helped leave any excess cornstarch behind). Cook the tofu on all sides until brown but not burnt, 1-2 minutes per side. Adjust the heat up or down as needed to maintain an even temperature.
Combine Tofu and Sauce: Once the tofu is brown and crispy, transfer it to the saucepan, stirring to coat, and turn the heat back on medium-low to warm it back up and finish thickening if needed. If the sauce becomes too thick, lower the heat and whisk in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Serve: Prepare individual serving bowls with rice and broccoli (if using). Top with the tofu and sauce, then garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and enjoy within 3 days.
Adapted from Minimalist Baker.The original recipe uses dried Szechuan peppers, which are the small red peppers you’ll find in many Chinese dishes. Since most people don’t have these in the pantry, I swapped them out for crushed red pepper. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper will add a very mild heat to the sauce; use 1 teaspoon (or more) for some spiciness.If you want to see the process for adding dried red peppers to the dish, check out the original recipe from Minimalist Baker. She adds a step to stir fry them along with the scallions.If you don’t have a microplane zester to use with the ginger, you can use the smallest setting on a box grater or finely chop it with a chef’s knife. The flavor disperses more evenly if you grate it with a zester.