Spicy Lemongrass Tofu with Asian Basil

Recipe adapted from Mai Pham

Serves 4

lemongrassMany people think tofu is bland, but when cooked with aromatics, spices, and umami-rich soy sauce, tofu takes on a flavor that is very vibrant and appealing. Soy sauce is a concentrated source of sodium. Look for reduced sodium or “lite” versions, which contain 40 percent less sodium than traditional versions. Removing the added salt in this recipe will cut the amount of sodium per serving in half.

  • 3 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped (about 5 tablespoons)
  • 1½ tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chopped Thai bird chilies
  • 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 12 ounces tofu, drained, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 2/3 cup Asian basil leaves (cut large leaves in half)

Pound the lemongrass and chilies with a mortar and pestle to pulverize them. Add soy sauce, turmeric, and sugar and mix well.

In a large glass bowl combine pounded aromatic mixture with the tofu and turn gently to coat evenly. Marinate for 30 minutes. (This will be a dry marinade, with not much liquid.)

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a small sauce pot over low heat. Add the onions, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt. Let cook covered 1 minute, add 1 tablespoon water, and continue to cook covered until the onions are translucent and soft—approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a large 12” non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the marinated tofu. (There should be enough room in the pan for all the tofu pieces to be in a single layer.) Shake pan slightly and let the tofu brown all over, using chopsticks or wooden spoons to turn the tofu pieces periodically so they cook evenly. Cook, uncovered, until tofu is nicely browned and caramelized.

Once the tofu is brown, add the onion mixture. Toss to warm and combine with the tofu. Adjust seasoning with a pinch of additional salt or sugar. Add half of the peanuts and Thai basil leaves. Remove from heat. Garnish with remaining peanuts and basil leaves and serve.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 230 ⁄ Protein: 10 g ⁄ Carbohydrate: 12 g ⁄ Fiber: 2.5 g ⁄ Sodium: 395 mg ⁄ Potassium : 330 mg
Saturated fat: 2 g ⁄ Polyunsaturated fat: 5.5 g ⁄ Monounsaturated fat: 9 g ⁄
Trans fat: 0 g ⁄ Cholesterol: 0 mg

Find more delicious recipes that spare the salt from The Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Adapted from a recipe by Mai Pham, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table (©2001 Harper Collins). Reproduced from the October 2007 Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference, The Culinary Institute of America.

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