Monday, June 7, 2010
Tofu Fried with Basil
Now, my favorite way of having tofu is probably tahu telor. I think that dish, which is similar to a Spanish tortilla with tofu rather than potatoes and then served with bean sprouts and a tangy peanut sauce, is impossible to top when it is cooked right. That's not to say that I don't like stuffed tofu, or salt and pepper tofu, or ma po tofu, or countless other ways you can prepare tofu. However, I don't generally like dishes in which tofu's role is an ersatz meat. Spaghetti and tofu ragu would be better without the tofu; tofu is simply a distraction from the other ingredients rather than a complement.
Chicken fried with basil is a dish you'll find at every Thai restaurant outside of Thailand. Gai paht kra prao, pad thai, and gai yang seem to be the holy trinity of dishes on Thai menus. It's a dish that comes together quickly and is a flavor powerhouse. Although I don't generally favor the substitution of tofu for meat, there are dishes where it works. This is one. That's because what really makes this dish is the combination of garlic, peppers and basil in a salty-sweet sauce. It works with chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu. The tofu is not the star of the dish, but it doesn't detract from it.
You can fry the cubes of tofu before adding them to the garlic, pepper and sauce, or after. Frying them first gives you crispy pillows of tofu that absorb the sauce. If you choose not to fry them, you have a denser dish where the tofu is more prominent. Either way, it is tasty dish.
A printable version of the recipe is available here.
1 pound of tofu, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 to 2 TBS oil
5 to 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 to 3 serrano or Thai chilies, minced
2 TBS fish sauce
1 TBS water
1 1/2 TBS kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 cup Thai basil
If you like, deep fry the tofu cubes in batches until crisp. Drain and cool.
Heat a wok or a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and tilt the pan to cover surface with oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir. Then add the chilies and fry until the garlic begins to color. Add the tofu, then stir in the fish sauce, water, and kecap manis. Toss and stir the ingredients so that the tofu is completely covered by the sauce. Add the basil and cook just until the basil begins to wilt. Transfer to a serving plate and serve with rice.