Lemongrass Tofu with Daikon
Lemongrass is a wonderfully fragrant herb. If prepped and cooked properly, it adds not only flavor but also a great texture to vegetables, meat, fish or tofu.
I used the lemongrass in this dish as a coating for the tofu (tàu hũ xào xả). Daikon radish (củ cải trắng in Vietnamese) provides contrasts in both texture and flavor. I think the way the daikon is cut dramatically changes the texture of the dish. By cutting it into thick strings, the daikon cooks fast but remain slightly firm.
Note: Glossary of relevant Vietnamese cooking terms.
Tàu hũ = tofu
Xào = stir fry
Xả = lemongrass
Củ = root
Trắng = white
Yields: 8 servings2 (12-ounce) packages firm tofu
3 tablespoon canola oil (or any neutral oil)
½ teaspoon red chili powder
1 green Thai chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemongrass (see tips), about 1-½ stalks
2 teaspoons mushroom salt seasoning (or salt)
1-½ tablespoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar), freshly grated
2 tablespoons vegetarian mushroom flavored stir-fry sauce (see tips)
2 teaspoons black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste
1 daikon, shredded (use the thickest grater)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon Thai basil, coarsely chopped
4 sprigs cilantro, for garnish
Prepping the tofu: Cut the tofu into 1-inch slices. In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Pan-fry the pieces of tofu on both sides until golden. The tofu should have a nice fried outer crust and still be moist inside. Transfer the tofu onto paper towels. Once the tofu pieces are cool enough to handle, cut them into thin threads. Set aside.
Prepping the lemongrass:
Wash the lemongrass. Remove the white powder from the leaves. Cut the stalk in half. Crush the younger part with the back of a chef's knife and set it aside (you can use it for making broth).
Cut the remaider of the stalk into extremely thin slices using a chef's knife. In a mortar and pestle, grind the thin slices of lemongrass, then transfer and mix everything using a mini food processor. It should turn into a fine moist powder. Gather 3 tablespoons and store the rest (see tips).
Making lemongrass spice blend:
In a mortar and pestle, grind the lemongrass, sugar, red chili powder, 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt and chopped fresh Thai chile into a smooth paste.
In the same wok, add the rest of the oil. Once it's hot, add the remaining clove of garlic. Cook until slightly golden, then add the shredded tofu and 2/3 of the quantity of the lemongrass mixture. Stir fry until the lemongrass coats the tofu evenly. Transfer the tofu to a platter, leaving as much oil as possible in the wok.
Add the daikon to the wok. Add black bean sauce, mushroom sauce, soy sauce and black pepper. Stir fry until soften. Return the tofu to the wok and add the reserved lemongrass mixture. Stir constantly and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
Check seasoning. Add more mushroom seasoning. Sprinkle with cilantro and Thai basil. Toss well.
Serve immediately with steamed rice.
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can find it at any gourmet specialty store or in most Korean stores. I buy mine at the Marina -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.
You can find lemongrass in any Asian market. Lemongrass is sold in bunches of 5 stalks, so plan other dishes using lemongrass. You could also prep the lemongrass and store it in the freezer by placing a few tablespoons in an ice-cube tray.
Thai basil tastes very different from sweet basil. It imparts a strong, earthy fragrance to the dish . To prevent the leaves from bruising and darkening too fast, tear them with your fingers at the very last minute, then toss them into the salad. Serve immediately.
I love Vinh Khang brand tofu. It's from a very little shop in San Jose (there's also one in Milpitas and one in LA) but everything is very good. Their factory makes all kinds of tofu textures (silken tofu, fried tofu, sweetened and unsweetened soy milk and tofu dessert). Make sure to ask for the firm type. The two locations are in the Bay Area. Vinh Khang Tofu, 141 Dixon Road, Milpitas, CA 95035 and 2955 Senter Road #80, San Jose, Ca 95111.
The soy sauce gives a nice amber brown color. My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a good flavor and is not too salty. You can find it at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 South 2nd Street, San Jose.Published By: on March 12, 2012.