Vegetarian Thai Tofu Satay with Peanut Sauce
In my quest to "share" as many meals as possible with my husband, I always try to make a vegetarian equivalent for him. I've done this successfully several times, like when I made curry tofu pot pie. Today, I created a veggie meal inspired by chicken satay.
The texture is pretty similar to that of the original, and the sauce is just as flavorful. Unseasoned tofu is a very bland ingredient, but it acts as a sponge and absorbs all the strong flavors of the sauce. If you've been scared to try tofu, this is a great place to start.
Yields: 82 packages firm tofu
1 cup peanut oil
1-1/2 tablespoons ghee
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
1 chunk galangal, about 2-3 inches
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 stalks lemongrass
6 fresh curry leaves, torn in two
1 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon turmeric paste
2 tablespoons coriander powder, freshly ground
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin powder, freshly ground
2 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth, + extra for the blending the sauce if necessary
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coconut powder, (optional)
1 cup coconut milk, as needed (depending on how thick the sauce is)
3 tablespoons coconut cream
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup lime juice
2 red Thai bird chili, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/4 teaspoons white peppercorns, freshly ground
1 drizzle toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh peanut, slightly crushed
For the galangal:
Clean the galangal and remove any dirt. Peel the galangal root with a paring knife. Grate the galangal with a fine mesh microplane. Gather about 1 tablespoon of grated galangal root. Set aside.
For the lemongrass:
Wash the lemongrass. Remove all the white powder off of the leaves. Cut into extremely thin slices using a chef knife. In a mortar and pestle, grind the thin slices of lemongrass and then transfer and mix everything using a mini food processor. It should turn into a fine moist powder. Transfer in a bowl. Set aside.
For the cardamom pods and mustard seeds:
In a mortar and pestle, Slightly crush the pods. Remove and discard the shells. Add the mustard seeds and grind the seeds into a fine powder. Set aside.
For the curry sauce:
In a saucepan, heat about 2 teaspoons of peanut oil. Add and melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot and whole red Thai bird chili. Cook until the shallot is golden. Remove the shallot and chiles and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
Add the minced garlic and curry leaves to the saucepan, cook for less than a minute then add the galangal puree and lemongrass. Cook until they are slightly golden. Add the cardamom, mustard, tumeric, coriander and cumin powders. Add the vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil. Stir constantly until the liquid thickens. Add the brown sugar, coconut powder (if used), coconut milk and turmeric paste. Decrease the heat to low. Stir frequently to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove and discard the curry leaves, if possible.
Transfer the sauce to a mini-blender, process until the sauce has a smooth consistency. Add peanut butter, the lime juice, a tablespoon of fresh cilantro and soy sauce. To faciliatate the flow in the blender, you can thin the sauce by adding about 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and about a tablespoon of vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer back to the saucepan. Add the fried shallot and red bird chiles (don't add the chili if you don't like it too spicy). Reheat the sauce over low heat.
For the tofu satay:
Cut the piece of tofu into 3/4 inch even slices.Cut the tofu slices in 3 equal pieces vertically (into 2-inch wide pieces). Separate each piece from another other.
Pour the rest of the canola oil in a 10-inch pan. You should be able to get about a 1 inch deep layer of oil. Heat the oil for about 2 minutes. The key to a good fried tofu is to get little bubbles when the tofu is in contact with the oil. Don't overheat the oil otherwise the tofu will get too golden and chewy. Just stick to the slighlty jumping bubbles. Place the tofu one piece at a time, make sure the tofu pieces don't touch each other. Lower the heat to a medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes, the tofu will start to pop and increase in volume. Flip each piece and cook about a minute longer. Pick each tofu piece with wooden chopstick with little oil as possible and immediately dip the tofu into the peanut sauce mixture. The tofu will deflate instantaneously. Pick up the peanut sauce sunken tofu with another pair of clean wooden chopsticks. Repeat until all the tofu pieces are ready. Drizzle a little sesame oil.
Garnish with crushed peanuts. Decorate with more cilantro leaves on top if you like.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Turmeric paste is sold in any Asian stores. It is sold in a blue container. It is sometimes called turmeric concentrate. It bring a nice sour flavor.
I use the AROY-D coconut milk brand. It is sold in a can. It has no preservatives and it is very convenient, they sell it in little package.
I also use the AROY-D coconut cream brand. It is sold in different size package. You can find bother coconut milk and cream in any Asian store.
I find coconut powder in Indian stores. I think it add a thicker consistency to the sauce and brings a nice aroma.
I absolutely love the Thanh Son tofu brand. If you live in the Bay Area, you have to try it. They sell in almost all the Asian markets in downtown San Jose and their main shop is on 2857 Senter Road, San Jose. It's a very little shop but everything is very good. Their factory makes the best tofu texture. They make fresh tofu daily. This is the perfect place for vegetarians. I always get 2 to 3 pieces of fresh tofu every week. I also recommend to try their fried mushroom tofu cubes as well. They also serve other foods, it's very authentic.
Ghee is a clarified butter that you can find in any Indian store. It has a very nice aroma. If you can't find any, you can substitute with regular unsalted butter.
If you can't find galangal, use double amount of ginger. Galangal is whiter in color than ginger but it's much more potent than regular ginger.
Lemongrass has to be extremely finely chopped. If not, it kinda has the very unpleasant texture of fingernails. Not very femme fatale-ish eh? So I usually finely slice each stalk of lemongrass, then blend all the slices in a mini-prep until it turns into a fine moist powder. Then I pound all that paste in a mortar and pestle. It'll guarantee you a very nice fresh lemongrass fragrance. I always make extra lemongrass "powder" that I store in my freezer. Just store the extra in an ice-cube tray then freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into bags that I vacuum-seal and place back in the freezer. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I keep them exactly the same way I would do with my extra pesto. You can store the lemongrasss in your freezer for up to 1 month or for 2-3 days in your refrigerator.
For the coriander and cumin powder: Dry roast 1 teaspoon of cumin and 2 teaspoon2 of coriander seeds over high heat. Grind both spices in a spice grinder (I use a coffee mill that I exclusively use for grinding spices). I often freshly grind all the spices and other ingredients for an optimum flavorful result.
The preparation of the tofu is very similar to the sunken fried tofu. It seems pretty simple to execute; you just need to be very careful on the temperature of the canola oil when you fry the tofu so that it really triples in volume and deflates when it is dipped in the peanut sauce mixture and absorbs all its flavor.
To guarantee a good absorption of the peanut sauce by the fried tofu, make sure you don't add too much "tofu" oil to the peanut mixture.
The oil used for frying the tofu is reusable. Just filter it in a cheesecloth and place in an oil can for your next use.
I use the same peanut sauce when I make chicken satay.Published By: on June 10, 2009.