The TallyCast

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Tofu Appetizer

Photo by TallyCast.

Tofu is a misunderstood food.  A lot of people claim to not like it, but few turn up their noses when prepared this way.  I brought plate in the photo above to a friend’s house tonight and was asked for the recipe. Except for baking, quantity cooking and a few other things, I don’t follow recipes. Like my Grandma, I cook with a pinch of this and a handful of that.

Given that disclosure, and my thanks for being asked, here’s my recipe for a kick-ass tofu appetizer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tub of extra firm tofu.
  • toasted sesame oil
  • canola oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 small hot peppers
  • kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of lemongrass stems
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • white wine
  • fish sauce
  • Thai green curry sauce

Equipment:

  • colander
  • wok
  • spider (small strainer with a handle)
  • temperature gauge for deep frying

Start by freezing the tofu in the package it came in.  Let it freeze solid for several days.  Defrost fully and squeeze out water from the tofu block without breaking the block.  Squeeze out as much as you can.  Chop the tofu into 1/2 to 3/8 inch squares.  Let sit in a colander while you heat up a mixture of sesame and canola oil in your wok.  You are looking for a temperature of between 350° and 360° F.  Use the thermometer and be careful.  Getting burned by hot oil, or burning down your kitchen is no fun.

Fry the tofu until it is light and springy.  Only fry a few pieces at a time.  When they’re done, take them out of the hot oil with a spider (see below) and put them into a dry colander to drain out any remaining oil.  If you fry it at too low a temperature or for too short a time, the tofu cubes will be oily and won’t absorb the sauce.  You’re looking for a crisp but not burned cube that has had most of the moisture fried out of it.  Once you’ve fried and drained all the cubes, set them aside to cool.

Peel and chop all the veggies except the lemongrass.  You want everything chopped fine.  Put the chopped peppers in a small bowl and mix in about a teaspoon of kosher salt.

Pour out most of the oil but save a tablespoon or two.  Return the wok to the heat and add the ginger (peeled and chopped into very small pieces, the garlic (peeled and chopped fine) and the onion (peeled and chopped).  Cook over medium heat stirring often.

When the aromatics are cooked through but not browned, pour in a can of coconut milk and stir.  Next, add the lemongrass.  For the dish in the photo, I used about 6 stalks.  You want the lower part of the stalk and a little bit of the leaf.   You can find lemongrass at Asian markets, or if you plan ahead, in your garden.  Add fish sauce to taste.  For the plate above, I added about 3 tablespoons.   If you’re cooking for a vegan, you can leave the fish sauce out but you’ll loose some amazing flavors.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn down to simmer.  Add white wine to keep the sauce a little thin.  You’re looking for something about the consistency of syrup.  The longer you let it simmer, the more goodness the sauce will extract from the lemongrass.

Ten minutes before you’re ready to serve the appetizer, remove the lemongrass, stir in a heaping teaspoon (more or less to taste) of canned Thai green curry paste and add the cooked tofu cubes.  Stir gently, bring to a boil and return back to a simmer.  Let the cubes soak up the sauce until they are soft and tasty.  Remove and drain the cubes returning the drained sauce to the wok.  Reduce the sauce and serve with the tofu cubes as a dip.  Toothpicks are appropriate implements for this dish.

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2 Comments

  1. Sounds delicious and a great tip about freezing the tofu first–I’ll have to give that a try.

    What local market carries lemongrass? I’m totally lacking in the green thumb department so a source would be great (usually end up using the paste from the produce section of Publix–not bad, but fresh would be awesome).

  2. Mike’s seafood frequently has lemongrass in their produce department. They also carry canned green curry paste that is much better then the stuff in the jar at Publix.

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