Eating vegan foods doesn't necessarily mean they have to be bland. My goal to jazz up a Japanese eggplant and broccoli tofu dish was to add extra richness to the taste with coconut cream. The vegetables cooked fairly quickly, so I focused more on seasoning the sauce, using soy sauce, chile black bean sauce, palm sugar and coconut.
This coconut tofu is a great way for our family (baby Aria and I are the only ones not on a vegetarian diet) to share the same meal without missing meat. The tofu was flavorful with crispy texture and the added spiciness. With a dish like this one, you won't have naysayers claiming the tofu dish is too plain!
Servings: 6 servings
1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
4 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 red onion, cut into small wedges
3 Japanese eggplants
½ teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt), to taste
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
1 tablespoon chili black bean sauce
1 teaspoon palm sugar, freshly grated (or light brown sugar)
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 cup broccoli florets, see tips
¼ cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon coconut powder (optional)
1 pinch turmeric
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Trim the eggplants. Cut them in half lengthwise and slice them into 5-6 pieces. Layer a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet (to collect the excess moisture). Place the eggplant pieces on the rack and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Let sit for about 20 minutes, then pat dry using paper towels. Drizzle the eggplants with a little oil. Toss well.
Cut the tofu lengthwise into ¾-inch slices, then cut into logs crosswise. Sprinkle with mushroom seasoning salt and red chili powder. Toss well. In a wok, heat the canola oil. Pan-fry the pieces on all sides until golden. The tofu should have a nice fried outer crust and still be moist inside. Transfer the tofu onto paper towels. Allow to cool a little.
In a small bowl, combine the black bean sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Stir well.
In the same wok, add the eggplant pieces. Ensure that the eggplant pieces are lightly coated in oil (no need to use a lot). Cook until lightly golden on all sides. Drizzle with the black bean mixture, coconut cream and coconut powder (if using). Toss well, sprinkle the broccoli florets and red onions over the tofu dish. Toss one more time, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and tender.
Check seasoning; add mushroom seasoning salt, turmeric and black pepper. Turn off the heat. Keep on the stove for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro.
Serve with jasmine rice and drizzle a little vegetarian nước chấm dipping sauce over it.
You could add any other vegetables such as enoki mushrooms, straw mushrooms, bok choy, bean sprouts or zucchini.
If you like you, you could add stir-fried thinly sliced chicken breast.
I used Golden Gate brand tofu; just make sure to look for the firm version.
You can use store-bought chili black bean sauce, like the one from Lee Kum Kee. Be sure to adjust the seasoning as this sauce is quite salty.
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the veggies. If you don't have any, you can always use regular salt. You can get mushroom seasoning salt at any gourmet specialty store or in most Korean stores. I get mine at the Marina -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.
The addition of the coconut powder is optional at the end but brings a extra richness to the dish.
You can find all the ingredients listed in most Asian stores.
Little eminder on how to boil broccoli: Fill a pot with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Add the whole broccoli pieces, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 15 minutes. They should be fork-tender (not mushy). Drain the water. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Allow to cool a little. Once they're cool enough to handle, cut into wedges from the bottom. Pull and separate the small florets.