Part of eating vegan is eating tofu. At least if you’re not allergic to soy. And definitely if you’re gluten intolerant. I’ve always been a little scared of tofu, though. It can be so spongey and squishy. I appreciate how it soaks up the flavors around it, but it’s still a bland squishy block.
However, handling tofu is less gross than handling liver (I tried that one time only.). Surely I could handle it. So I requested a copy of Deborah Madison’s This Can’t Be Tofu! Madison writes some great vegetarian cookbooks, but a lot of her recipes are definitely not vegan, and many are difficult to translate to vegan. This book is a blessed change of pace from that, however. There are lots of recipes in here, with dozens of different ways to try tofu, from the standard Asian stir fry approaches, to curries, to desserts and smoothies. I’m excited to try them all. For this week, I decided to give a try to Coconut Curry with Tofu and Lime, since it looked simple to prepare and sounded tasty. and I was right!
Coconut Curry with Tofu and Lime from This Can’t Be Tofu! by Deborah Madison
- 1 carton soft or firm tofu
- 1 can coconut milk mixed with 1/2 cup water, chicken broth, or stock
- 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 heaping tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 4 scallions, including the firm greens, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- Mushroom soy sauce, to taste
- Chopped cilantro
1. “Drain the tofu, then dice it into 1/2-inch cubes.
2. Combine the next ten ingredients in a 10 inch skillet. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Add the tofu, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and scallions, and simmer 5 minutes more.
3. Add the lime juice. Season to taste with a teaspoon or more mushroom soy sauce. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro. ”
See? Easy. Finding tamarind paste was the biggest challenge for me. I had to go to the local natural foods store. And what I was envisioning was a squeezey tube or a jar of liquid. Instead, what I got was a giant brick of soft but solid tamarind. Brown. Sort of sweet smelling.
Dissolving the tamarind into the hot water was the next hardest part. That sucker just didn’t want to dissolve, even with hot water and vigorous stirring. It eventually dissolved into the water sufficiently for my tastes, though, and I was able to mix it in with the other ingredients in the pan.
Draining tofu can also be a challenge. I hate how many paper towels I use doing it, but I try to get the tofu as dry as possible, so it firms up and soaks up as much of the sauce as possible. I used firm tofu this time and sliced the block in half horizontally, then took the two thinner halves, and pressed them between sheets of paper towels between two dinner plates. You have to be careful not to press too hard, especially in any one spot, or the tofu will bulge and pop and become very messy looking and hard to handle. I managed to mostly avoid that and cube the tofu blocks into cubes close enough to 1/2 inch. The smaller, the better, really, since the outsides of each cube soak up more sauce.
And what a sauce! It had a smooth, creamy consistency, and a terrific taste. I would have eaten it alone with a spoon. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, as I had the tomato, scallions, and tofu to enjoy with it. We served it with basmati rice, which also soaked up the sauce. I would make this recipe again, with just the sauce, to eat it without other food. It was that good!
I did not use fresh cilantro, as I don’t like the taste. and I have no idea where I’d even find mushroom soy sauce, much less if I could find it gluten free (doubtful). The absence of those ingredients didn’t seem to negatively affect the flavor of the dish. The only other adjustment you might want/ need to consider would be the amount of cayenne. This was surprisingly spicy, using the amount called for.
The recipe seemed light, while eating, but was filling. It was also delicious. The tofu didn’t feel too squishy, and the small cubes absorbed the flavor well. My only complaint might be that I’d prefer the dish with more vegetables in it, especially because this dish, as is, only makes 3-4 servings. If you’re cooking for a family, do what I plan to do next time, and add a variety of vegetables, beans, nuts, or even fruit and grains to stretch the dish further. And serve with plenty of rice and some flat bread, if you can.