I’m reaching my hand out to you. Did you grab it?
Let’s hold hands and tread lightly together into the scary world of tofu.
I know some of you might be thinking….tofu, yuck.
And I get it. I was there. But, it would be a shame if the tofu in this dish scared you off, because it’s really really delicious.
What is tofu exactly? Here is what I found out about this tasty little treat;
Tofu is a food made by coagulating soymilk and then pressing the curds into soft white blocks. (OK, stick with me…..deep breath). It is a component in many East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish. Tofu originated in ancient China and was introduced to Korea and then to Japan and also spread into other parts of East Asia as well. It is an important source of protein in the vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddhism. Tofu has a low calorie count, high in protein, and little fat.
Well, thumbs up to that!
My good friend Casandra was the one who first introduced me to tofu a few years ago. We were ordering Thai food for lunch one day and I probably ordered my usual Thai basil chicken and she ordered spicy fried tofu.
I was thinking to myself…ew….tofu, really? You have so many yummy meat choices and you want to eat a meat substitute? Not me.
I can eat a bag of edamame myself in about 5 minutes (when it’s sufficiently salted) because I love it, so I don’t know why I was so hesitant about tofu.
I think I was judging it because I was thinking it was merely a meat substitute, and not even considering that it may actually taste good. Casandra asked me to “just try it” so I did, reluctantly.
The first bite was…….well, weird, texture-wise. That was only because I had never had it before…but then, WOW! It was good! So flavorful. This particular tofu (like the tofu in this dish) was cut into squares. It was fried crispy on the outside and it was soft in the middle. It was fresh and had sort of an earthy-beany flavor…and I liked it! Especially in the spicy sauce it was cooked in.
I was very surprised. In an instant, my whole attitude about tofu changed. Maybe people eat this stuff because they actually like it.
Did I just hear a collective “Duh” from those of you who do eat it? I think I did. Why was I judging this poor healthy, good-for-me tofu when I had never even tried it? Maybe it was the funny name.
Speaking of its name, just in case you’re interested, the English word “tofu” comes from the Japanese tofu, which itself derives from the Chinese dòufu or bean + curdled. The American-English term “bean curd(s)” for tofu has been used since at least 1840. This does not apply to the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand; only the United States.
Anyway, I think mostly it was because I had it in my head that it was a meat “substitute” and I didn’t like that idea for some reason. I don’t eat much meat on a daily basis, but I’m not a vegetarian. So me making tofu really is about taste and choosing a healthy option. I also love it because it’s filling (like meat would be if it were in this dish), but it’s also light and fluffy and goes so well with the rice.
Oh my God, the rice!
I got so wrapped up in pushing the tofu on you that I almost forgot all about the rice. This rice is out of this world good. I mean seriously, it’s crazy good. If I didn’t win you over with the tofu, at least please try this rice. Go ahead and make it with your chicken-of-the-week, if you must. I won’t judge.
The rice is cooked in coconut milk (WOW!) and then you add the toasty spices and fresh lime zest. I added lots more lime zest to my bowl because I just love that zing it gives it.
And I went all out and used regular coconut milk, not the light version. I have to go all out the first time I try new things, then maybe cut back on the fat. But this was so good, I don’t think I’ll be cutting back next time either.
The combination of the spicy tofu, crispy and light, with the coconut lime-y rice is killer. My friend Megan at work told me how good this is so I had to try it. Thanks, Megan!
I really love this dish and I know you will too if you’d just give it half a chance. Thank you, and I’m done being pushy…….for now.
SPICY STIR-FRIED TOFU with COCONUT RICE
Inspired by Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone via Megan Vendehey
For the Rice
Makes about 4 cups cooked rice
1 3/4 cups basmati rice
4 teaspoon peanut oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
½ teaspoon lime zest
For the Tofu
1 package extra firm tofu
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want it on the hot side)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 scallions, including half of the greens, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Gently wash the rice in a bowl, soak for 30 minutes, then drain. Warm the oil in a 3-quart saucepan with the onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, then add the rice and 1.5 tsp. salt. Stir to coat the grains, then add the coconut milk, 2 cups water, and the lime zest.
Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and cook until the rice is done (about 15 minutes), stirring twice during cooking. Turn off the heat and set it aside while you prepare the tofu. It will look a little wet at first, but the liquid will be absorbed by the time you’re ready.
Drain the tofu, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine the spices, salt, and the sugar in a bowl, add the tofu, and toss gently with a rubber spatula. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet, add the tofu, and stir-fry until crispy and golden, about 5-7 minutes.
*Make sure you let them crisp up on one side before tossing them over*
Add the scallions and cook just until they’re wilted, then add the lime juice. Serve the tofu on the rice, garnish with the cilantro.
I added a bunch more lime zest to mine because it was SO GOOD with the coconut.
Also, this doesn’t come out very spicy (hot-spicy) so if you’re into that sort of thing like I am, I would add some more cayenne. I did.