If I ever have to pick a favourite food, I would choose Tofu (bean curd) without even the slightest momentary hesitation. My colleagues have all come to know that whenever we choose to eat at an Asian restaurant during our travels, I have to have a Tofu dish. It is fortunate that Tofu is a common and popular ingredient in most Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean restaurants. It is even more fortunate that so far, none of my travel companions, are averse to Tofu dishes in Asia. Tofu has to be the most neutral and comforting ingredient one can work with. On its own, its taste is so neutral that it is impossible for it to offend any palate.
However, I do realise that the nutritious protein component has acquired a somewhat irksome reputation in the west as a tasteless, uninteresting health freak food. Here in Asia, we use Tofu in more interesting and creative ways. There are countless recipes out there that feature the humble ingredient. Off the top of my head, I can already recall posting at least 4 or 5 Tofu dishes in this space.
The recipe I feature today is a popular tofu snack in SE Asia. This can be served as an appetizer or a tofu salad dish. For myself, a larger Tofu square would be enough to be my meal. The slightly spicy peanut sauce is the integral element that lends an exotic appeal to this otherwise plain and simple dish.
Totally easy to prepare and great to be served at parties. I used the recipe featured in Shermay Lee's The New Mrs Lee's Cookbook Vol. 2. The instructions are simple and easy to follow but the peanut sauce turns out a tad too thick. I could possibly thin it down a little more with water and add a dash of lime juice to it the next time I prepare this again.
Bean Sprouts 100g
Firm Tofu 400g (2 pieces) (If you purchase this from an Asian grocery store, look for Taukua)
Oil for deep frying
Garlic 4 cloves
Red Chilli 2
Palm Sugar 2 tbsp (can be replaced with brown sugar)
Salt 1/4 tsp
Rice Vinegar 1 tbsp (those used for sushi is fine)
Dark soya sauce 2 tbsp (try to use the darker version. This is different from the light soya sauce commonly
used for flavouring)
Water 8 tbsp (I would suggest to add more water to adjust the flow of the sauce)
Roasted ground peanut 160g
1. Blanch bean sprouts in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and keep aside.
2. Wash cucumber and slice it.
3. Place garlic and chilli in a food processer and grind it to a paste.
4. Place (3) in a saucepan with the rest of the peanut sauce ingredient. Heat up and cook until sugar dissolves completely. (if you like your sauce to be smoother and less chunky, you can process the cooled down sauce in the food processor again)
5. Heat up,in a wok, enough oil to at least half immerse the tofu. The oil needs to be very hot. Normally, we insert the tip of a wooden chopstick to check for small bubbles before we put in the tofu.
(before deep frying, sandwich the tofu between 4 pieces of kitchen towel and lay a heavy tray on the the tofu. This will dry out the excess moisture in the tofu and prevent too much splattering when you deep fry it)
6. Deep fry tofu until golden brown. Be patient and do not try to turn the tofu before it has formed a crust - otherwise the tofu will crumble.
7. Lay a plate with sliced cucumber. Lay fried tofu on top (pre-cut) , top with bean sprouts and peanut sauce.