This recipe is based on a dish my girlfriend and I had at a small Thai restaurant in San Luis Obispo, California called Thairiffic (yeah, I know, bad pun). It was pretty good, so we set out to try and replicate it. The original dish consisted of tofu slices covered in a sauce which was basically a thick green curry with finely chopped vegetables.
- 1 pound extra firm tofu (firm might also work)
- 1-1 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste to taste
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar
- cornstarch for coating tofu
- ~6 cups finely chopped vegetables (we used squash and broccoli)
- 1 handfull fresh basil leaves
- oil for cooking tofu
- The first thing to do, since it will take the longest, is to press the tofu. This basically removes excess water from the tofu, and will make the cooked product firmer. It will also stay together better. To press the tofu, first remove it from its container and wrap it in a towel (I usually use a paper towel). Place the wrapped tofu on a smooth surface such as a cutting board or large plate. You will need to have something flat and heavy to put on top of the tofu to help press the water out of it. Some people use a block of wood for this, it doesn't really make too much difference. I usually use a second plate on top of the tofu, I then put a 1 liter water bottle on top of the plate for weight. Other suggestions are a clean brick, or a second cutting board. The tofu will need to sit like this for about 20 minutes. During this time it will loose about 1/2 to 1 cup of water
- While you are waiting for your tofu you can work on the sauce. It might also be a good idea to start some rice. To start the sauce put the coconut milk into a large sauce pan and set the heat on low. Add the curry paste and sugar, stirring until thoroughly mixed. The curry paste we use is made by a company called Thai Kitchen. It contains green chili, lemon grass, garlic, galangal, lime and other spices. You could probably use another Thai style curry paste or make your own. Curry paste is available at specialty and import stores (at least it is in California).
- Begin chopping the vegetables, making sure to stir the coconut milk mixture every few minutes. When chopping the vegetables you want fairly small pieces (1/4 - 1/8 inch). The original dish was a puree but I prefer it a little chunky. If you want a smoother sauce it would probably be best to cook the sauce and then pure once the vegetables are cooked. Once the vegetables are chopped add them to the coconut mixture, mixing so that the vegetables are thoroughly incorporated. Cover the pot, raise the temperature to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes. Give the sauce a stir and taste for salt and spic. Add salt and more curry paste to taste. Stir and cover the sauce. Continue cooking until vegetables are done.
- After the tofu has been sitting for 20 minutes or so, it is ready to be sliced and cooked. Cut the tofu into slices approximately 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. Heat a wok or small pan with about 1/4 inch of oil in it (I use peanut oil). Heat the oil until the tip of a bamboo chopstick bubbles when placed in the oil. Coat a single tofu slice (unless you have a very large pan) in cornstarch and place in the wok, being careful not to splash yourself with the hot oil. Cook the tofu on one side for two to three minutes or until it is just slightly brown and crispy, then flip it over and cook the other side. When both sides are cooked remove them from the pan and allow to drain on a rack or an top of several paper towels. Cook the remaining slices.
- Once the tofu is done chop the basil and add it to the sauce, stirring to combine. Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of water and then add to the sauce, stirring until the sauce begins to thicken. Once the sauce is done the dish is ready to be served with plenty of jasmine rice. We usually place the tofu on a bed of rice and cover with the sauce. The restaurant where we originally had this served the tofu covered with the sauce. Rice was served on the side
Sometimes we add a tablespoon of chicken base for additional flavor. Vegetarians could try vegetable base. The addition of lime leaves would also be something to try. I have not done so as they are difficult to find here.