vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu

 Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu (uncooked)
Think you don't like tofu? I beg you to reconsider. This recipe for Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu could change your mind and have you begging for more.

I admit that for years I was somewhat underwhelmed by tofu. Knowing that it was protein-rich didn't really help as I just wasn't very fond of the texture - bland and rubbery. Instead of associating tofu with a long heritage of Chinese Buddhist cuisine, I'm afraid I rather associated it with the type of old-school 1970s British vegetarianism that required you to knit your own lentils and use hand-thrown brown pottery. But discovering that if you press the tofu with a weighted chopping board to remove the excess water you can firm it up and improve the texture was something of a revelation.

lemongrass and chilli aromatic rub for tofu
The one virtue of tofu is that as it doesn't have much (if any) flavour; that it takes on the flavours of whatever it has been cooked with. So marinating it with a sort of dry rub of aromatics definitely improves the taste. The following recipe is utterly moreish.

I used a block of firm tofu from the not-so-mysterious East - that's East London. Neil McLennan of Clean Bean makes a fabulous organic tofu in Brick Lane. This is a tofu that actually has a really nice taste. I bought it in my local whole food shop, Earth, and it really is worth tracking down if you live or work in London.

 vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu - crisp and beautifully moreish
These little squares of fried tofu are crisp on the outside and melting on the inside, with a gorgeous spicy flavour. Brilliant as party nibbles with a dip or as a topping for noodles or with stir-fried vegetables.

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

300g block of firm tofu
lightly salted boiling water
vegetable oil
2 fat red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
dipping sauce
juice of 1 lime
light soy sauce, to taste


  1. Boil lightly salted water in a small saucepan (large enough to hold the slab of tofu). Add the tofu and take off the heat. Allow the tofu to sit in the water for about 5 minutes. Drain the tofu and pat dry.
  2. Place the tofu on a plate or chopping board with a "lip." Cover with another chopping board and weigh down with a couple of tins of beans or perhaps a pile of hard-backed books. Make sure that the weights are evenly distributed. Excess water will be pressed out of the tofu. It is worth checking after an hour and draining off any water that has collected. Leave overnight if you can.
  3. Make the dipping sauce by combining lime juice with 2 teaspoons of soy sauce. Taste; add more soy if liked and set aside.
  4. Cut the tofu into 2 centimetre cubes.
  5. Make sure that the chillies, lemongrass and garlic are very well chopped. (Whizzing it up in a blender for a few seconds does the trick.) Combine this mixture with a half teaspoon of salt.
  6. Gently toss the tofu in this mixture. Set aside for an hour to allow the flavours to develop.
  7. Heat vegetable oil (about 2 centimetres deep) in a large frying pan.
  8. Brush off any excess marinade and gently fry the tofu for about 10 minutes until lightly browned all over and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm.
  9. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small frying pan and quickly fry remaining marinade mixture. Pour over the warm tofu and serve immediately with the dipping sauce.
  • Make sure that you buy the firm type of tofu rather than soft or silken tofu.

1 comment:

belleau kitchen said...

i too am not a fan of the texture and i don't fall for the 'smothered in flavour' routine... however this looks very good and I know The Viking would love it. Nice to see you back to blogging so regularly!