Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tofu Thai Larb

I went a wee bit crazy with the grocery shopping last week and we have been working all week to try and use up all of the produce and proteins in the fridge.    Somehow we ended up with a ton of tofu in the fridge - smoked tofu, spiced pressed tofu, tofu skin noodles, sprouted tofu, fried tofu...  I have used some of the smoked tofu for a tofu and celery salad (which I will post later), but we had yet to use the rest of the tofu.  I originally planned to make lettuce wraps with the remaining smoked tofu, but I started thinking about larb and that led me to a number of different recipes for tofu larb using firm or extra firm tofu, including this one from The Mistress of Spices.  I figured extra firm sprouted tofu would work for Thai larb.  Once I realized we had everything we needed for the recipe, we were on.  

When I was thinking through what we should add to the larb, I knew I wanted some texture for the dish and some additional flavor, so I added thinly sliced cucumber (you want it to be thin enough to be tender, but thick enough to retain some crispness) and fried shallots.  Tofu tends to be a little mushier and less toothsome than ground meat and the fried shallots and cucumbers provided a really nice textural contrast to the softness of the tofu crumbles.  I briefly considered adding peanuts in lieu of the fried shallots, but I'm glad we went with the fried shallots instead because I thought the flavor of the fried shallots really added nice depth and savory flavor to the dish.  You could use a variety of different lettuces or cabbages as the wrapper, but we went with Bibb lettuce because we had it in the fridge.  I bought it to use as part of a (Belated) Chinese New Year meal because lettuce is a traditional component of Chinese New Year cuisine, but I never came up with a recipe I was excited about.  So I ended up repurposing the lettuce for this larbThe larb managed to be both light and flavorful.  And I didn't miss the meat at all.  Sometimes when I eat tofu I wish I was eating meat instead, but there wasn't a single instant this evening that I wished I had made a chicken or pork larb, rather than a tofu larb. All of the ingredients added something to the dish - depth of flavor, contrasting texture, a degree of freshness...  It was light and it was delicious.  Sometimes I heart tofu.

P.S.  I know I keep using the word "light" to describe this dish, but I cannot think of a single adjective that would be more (or equally) appropriate. 

Recipe after the jump!

Tofu Thai Larb

1 lb sprouted extra-firm tofu (we used Trader Joe's organic sprouted extra-firm tofu)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 serano chili, thinly sliced
(remove the seeds if you want to cut down on the spice level)
1 tbsp roasted/toasted rice powder
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup mint, chopped
fried shallots, for garnish

1/2 of an English cucumber, thinly sliced, for garnish
Bibb lettuce leaves
Drain the tofu and place between a few paper towels in order to absorb as much moisture as possible.  Set aside for 15 minutes.  Once tofu has drained, crumble it with your hands.

Heat the wok over moderately high heat.  Add the oil and swirl around.  Add shallots and garlic.  Stir-fry until aromatics are fragrant and the garlic is just beginning to turn golden.

Add the tofu crumbles to the pan and cook just barely beginning to turn golden, about 8-10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, mix the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chili in a bowl.  Stir well and set aside.

Once the tofu has finished cooking, add fish sauce mixture and roasted rice powder. Cook, stir-frying regularly, for an additional minute and remove from the heat.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

After the larb has cooled, mix in the chopped cilantro and mint. Serve with Bibb lettuce leaves and fried shallots for garnish.

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