Monday, 8 February 2010

Hot & Sour Tofu with Aubergine

After I saw Helen's post on crispy tofu, I immediately got a craving for it. I've always loved tofu in all it's forms, but nothing quite beats fresh firm tofu, dipped in cornflour and fried in hot fat creates a crunchy, grease-free coating. It may seem strange to then go and braise it, potentially ruining that crisp exterior, but it actually soaks up the juices, flavouring the tofu throughout while its subtle flavour shines through. You still get the crispy bits as they don't languish long in the sauce.

I'm biased as I love them so, but I think the perfect texture to complement the tofu was soft, melting aubergines. Fried first and then braised, these silky beauties also absorb all the flavour in the dish. I was only gutted that I'd only made one portion. It's important to balance the sweet, hot, sour and salty so taste, taste and taste until you get what you think is right.

Hot & Sour Tofu with Aubergines

Serves 2

Half a block of fresh tofu
1 medium aubergine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2" ginger, chopped finely
2 red birds eye chillis, deseeded and chopped finely
1 large handful of Thai holy basil leaves chopped finely
A few sprigs of coriander, roughly chopped
Fish sauce to taste (or soy if you're vegan or vegetarian)
Palm sugar to taste
1 lime
1 spring onion, sliced diagonally
50 mls of water
Vegetable oil

Slice the tofu into thick rectangles and leave to drain on kitchen paper. On a plate, shake out some cornflour to coat the tofu with. Heat about 1cm of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Coat the tofu in the cornflour and place immediately in the hot oil and fry carefully until golden brown. Leave to drain on a fresh piece of kitchen towel. Meanwhile, slice the aubergine to the thickness of a pound coin and fry in a little oil until, again, browned on both sides.

In a wok, heat some oil and add the ginger, garlic and chillis to the oil. Open every single window in a 10 mile radius unless you want napalm in your lungs. Add the aubergines and half of the holy basil, as well as the water. Bring to the simmer and add the tofu. Season with fish sauce and palm sugar (I started off with 1 tbsp of each) and the rest of the holy basil and cook until the sauce has been absorbed and has thickened slightly. Take off the heat, taste and add more fish sauce or sugar as appropriate, as well as a hefty squeeze of lime. Garnish with the chopped spring onion and coriander and serve with rice.

If your palm sugar comes in a big block as mine does, I've found the best way to use it is to grate it on the coarse bit.


Helen said...

PHWOAR! This sounds a bit good then! A new way for me to try tofu and with aubergines as well! Love it. I salivated so much when I was reading this that I had to actually suck some of the saliva back in. S

Sorry. Bit too much information.

The Grubworm said...

Hah - know what you mean about opening window when you cook those bird's eye chillis, I've been there (and wiped my eyes to clear them - after chopping chillis - cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth).

This looks like a fab dish. I've not really ventured far into the realms of tofu cooking, but i do like it and this looks like a great way to start. I really like the idea of frying then braising.

LexEat! said...

Looks delicious. I find it fascinating seasoning Asian food, particularly Thai and Vietnamese by balancing the sweet, sour, tang, heat etc - makes you think about what you're doing rather than just chucking everything in!


Caitlin @ Roaming Tales said...

This looks wonderful. I might actually have to try making this soon.

dining room table said...

I like tofu. I used tofu as an alternative for meat and I think there is no difference.

Lizzie said...

Helen - lovely :) I must try your ground rice idea too.

Grubworm - I suffered much pain with frying those chillis. My (chilli intolerant) housemate was really unimpressed!

Lex - you can still chuck stuff in, just bit by bit!

Caitlin - thanks! Do give it a go.

Dining Room - Really? I can't agree with you on that one.

gastrogeek said...

aubergine, tofu, frying AND braising? - well this looks pretty damned dreamy... it certainly ticks all my taste boxes.

curlywurlyfi said...

Grating the palm sugar. Genius. I've been struggling to chip bits off with a knife, worried about snapping the blade.

Tales from the Tiny Kitchen said...

Lordy, this looks good. I've been on the hunt for a tofu and aubergine recipe for ages, so thanks for this!

theundergroundrestaurant said...

Sounds and looks delicious. Tofu can be great!

Sharmila said...

Ah, tofu and aubergine in one dish. Brilliant. I have combined them before in a Sichuan fish fragrant frenzy, which was great, but I would love to try out the more SE Asian flavours of this dish.

shayma said...

i am with Sharmila- i love the Szechuan fish fragrant style, too this reminds me of that. but i love yours- the lime gives it that added kick. and as you know, i, like you, ADORE aubergine. as for your tofu recipe- loves it, Lizzie!

Rashmi said...

wow!! All things nice ! Certainly up my alley :) Thanks for the recipe!

Rachel said...

Just about to try this - fingers crossed! I sometimes use a vegetable peeler to remove palm sugar from the block if I only want a little - much safer than a knife.

The London Foodie said...

OMG, I can't believe I have been missing all these great recipes - pleased that someone is posting about tofu, I love it so much I named my dog Tofu! It irritates me when people say they dislike tofu, what is there to dislike?! But then I grew up eating the stuff (and not as veggie burgers!) Luiz x

Dining Table Set Gal said...

Sounds looks so delicious. Always Asian food are different and so tasty. Making us so satisfied with their fabulous dish. I think This dish also should be this kind of one.

Anthony Silverbrow said...

I made this tonight (although used rice flour plus s & p as per Helen's recipe) and it was excellent. Mine ended up being a bit of a hotch potch, I put in some tamarind paste, I used Demerara rather than palm sugar and didn't have any limes but did have mirin that I lobbed in. Very good, thanks posting.

Lizzie said...

Anthony - thanks for the feedback, I imagine demerara would work just as well. Pleased you liked it!

Howard Elliott Mirrors said...

The food looks really delicious. I felt hungry upon seeing them.

LizTrots said...

This is such an excellent recipe. I made it last night and steamed the aubergine rather than the first frying. I don't think this reduced the deliciousness of the aubergines, although maybe they looked at little less attractive.

Thanks Lizzie