Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lemongrass Tofu with Chiles

I happen to really, actually like tofu. I like it in all forms whether silken, firm, or extra firm. I like the flavor, and there is a flavor to tofu albeit very mild. It’s versatile enough to be used in endless ways and can be incorporated into dishes both savory and sweet. However, the one way I still have never tried tofu is in its homemade state. Andrea Nguyen’s new book Asian Tofu will change that. After reading the book recently I couldn’t wait to get cooking, so the dish I’m showing here was made with store-bought tofu. Soon enough though, I’ll be turning back to the complete tutorial at the beginning of the book for making homemade tofu from dried soybeans. Obviously, it’s not necessary to make your own tofu for the recipes in the book, but the instructions are there if you want to experiment. There’s also a buying guide to inform you about the varieties typically available in stores. The recipes cover everything from starters and soups to main dishes and salads and even sweets. Not all of the dishes are vegetarian but many are, and there’s usually a simple way to adapt dishes with meat to make them vegetarian if you’d like. For instance, the Grilled Crisp Tofu Pockets from Malaysia are made with a sauce that includes dried shrimp paste, but a sweet chile sauce could be used instead. Some pages I marked show dishes like Silken Tofu and Edamame Soup, Twice-Cooked Coriander Tofu, Pressed Tofu and Peanuts in Spicy Bean Sauce, Spicy-Sweet Fried Tofu Buns, and Spiced Chickpea Crepes with Soybean Paneer. When I finally make my very own homemade tofu, I’ll use it for Japanese Chilled Tofu. To get started using the book, I wanted to try the technique of briefly brining tofu before frying it which both flavors the tofu and gives it a firmer texture. The Lemongrass Tofu with Chiles dish includes that step, and since asparagus was a suggested ingredient, the time was right.

In the tips section at the beginning of the book, Nguyen explains that soaking pieces of tofu in hot, salted water allows the surface of each piece to firm up after being dried. Then, when the pieces are fried, the oil drains from them more easily. The salted water also seasons the tofu pieces giving them even better flavor. The cut tofu pieces only need to sit in the hot, salted water for about 15 minutes. Then, they’re drained and dried before being fried. Once the tofu pieces have all been fried and are left to drain of excess oil, the rest of the dish is a snap to prepare. Finely chopped shallot, chiles, and lemongrass were stir-fried briefly before sliced bell pepper and asparagus were added. The recipe includes green beans as it's written, but asparagus is mentioned as an option. After a couple of minutes, the fried tofu was added followed by a mixture of sugar and curry powder. A scant quarter cup of coconut milk and a bit of fish sauce were added, and that was all there was to it.

The fried tofu was crispy and chewy with a good, golden crust. Since the crust formed quickly as the tofu fried, there was no chance for oil to soak in and lend heaviness. The dish was just rich enough with the tofu and the small amount of coconut milk, and the flavor with the added lemongrass and heat of the chiles was miles beyond what you’d expect from a plate of tofu and vegetables. I can already tell that with this book, I’ll be an even bigger fan of tofu than I was before.

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21 comments:

  1. Fried ofu is so deicious. A wonderful dish!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. I am in loved with fried tofu and could eat this daily :D

    Cheers
    CCU

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  3. Definitely have to think this recipe over, Lisa. I am not a tofu fan, but I've had it a couple times out for dinner and loved it, both times fried and served with veggies. This looks really good and I love Andrea Ngyen!

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  4. The soaking the tofu in hot water to refresh is a trick I picked up somewhere else, but it really works. And I've never though about making my own tofu. Knowing me, I probably will someday - just to say I did it! Sounds like a great book. And I know this is a great post - thanks.

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  5. Nailed it! Looks incredible. I am not a big fan of tofu.. not sure why though. I should love it, being vegetarian and all. I am told that it is much tastier when marinated :)

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  6. I never liked tofu until I had it as fried bean curd in Asian dishes so I'm loving this recipe! I must check out that cookbook too. I bought some tofu for another recipe, but should have some leftover so this will be perfect.

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  7. I love that book. OK, I'm biased because I am friends with Andrea. But truly, her cookbooks are filled with such exhaustive research and the most wonderful recipes.

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  8. That looks like a great dish and I'm sure it's very good for you too. I have an Asian cookbook that taught me how to deep-fry tofu then serve it like an appetiser with a flavoured chilli salt. It was delicious and would convert anyone who dislikes tofu. Love the colours in your dish xx

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  9. I love tofu! This looks so delicious with chillies and lemongrass.

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  10. i love her cookbooks, we use the asian dumplings one ALL the time! i'm not a super big fan of tofu, but if anyone could convert me, it would be her!

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  11. i've never had any tofu that i didn't like. however, i've never had any that i DID like, either--i've never eaten it! this sounds like something i'd enjoy, though--lovely dish!

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  12. This tofu dish sounds and looks delicious...like the lemongrass and the chili...and so colorful. Beautiful pictures as always Lisa. Hope you are having a wonderful week :)

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  13. It took me a while to enjoy eating tofu but this dish looks wonderful. What a happy plate of delicious food!

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  14. I don't mind tofu either, especially when fried. Not sure I'd take on the task of making my own, though. can't wait to see how yours turns out. This dish sounds terrific with lemongrass and chilis- nice combo!

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  15. I loveeeee tofu but i prefer the firm and extra firm ones. I would be the happiest person ever if i was having this for dinner today!

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  16. I too happen to enjoy Tofu. As a matter of fact, I just remembered to put it on my shopping list because when I "run" into the grocery store, unfortunately, it's not the first thing I think of buying! Although I have a few Tofu cookbooks, I sure could use another. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Lisa. And for giving me a source to seek out! I'm saving this for when I finally make it to the store Now I have a "new" recipe to try!!!

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  17. your tofu looks beautifully deep-fried. what a healthy and delicious meal. can't wait for you to try your hands at tofu making!

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  18. I have had great tofu, and not so good tofu. And I'd love to try this recipe. Fried, crispy tofu sounds incredible!

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  19. I enjoy tofu too but I hardly fry them to such golden crispiness.

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