Spicy Tofu / Paneer cubes with lime leaves (Tahu Goreng)

What I needed:

Garlic – few pods
Change of clothes – 1
Shower essentials (tap, soap, etc.)
A small stool
Mop – 1
Patience – in abundance

You may or may not need the above items – I did.

While I was preparing this dish, I had my 2 and a ½ year old inquisitive son (V) on my case. He seems to have already developed a strange affinity for the kitchen. He already narrates & demonstrates his own recipes and all of them end up seasoned with salt and pepper:)

At first, I struggled to find the right spot to photograph my ingredients. Just when I thought I sorted that one out, V dashed in super excited looking at all the food and equipment and wanted to help (they always want to help!). He was tasked to peel garlic. Instantly, he loved the task he was assigned. He felt like a grown up. He was proud to help me as if I had bestowed upon him, the biggest responsibility of his lifetime. He got on with the task which meant, I got on with mine. To my surprise, he did a pretty neat job with the garlic!

I made some progress with the tofu dish. I was satisfied.

If only, 2 and half year olds could sustain their happiness by peeling garlic! My happiness was short-lived. When we started cooking, little did I know that I was just going to witness a tantrum that will become worthy of an honorable post on my blog.

I washed my hands to start cooking. V saw me. Of course, he wanted to do it too! Under normal circumstances, I would carry him to ‘make him taller’ and let him wash his hands by himself. I really wanted to get on with the cooking, so I put a stool for him to stand on and wash his own hands with the expectation that he would be engaged in his own little venture for some time. Ten minutes later, he still wanted to wash his hands! I explained that we should not waste water (logic usually works!). I attempted to distract him. I tried to entice him with his bath toys and all the fun he could possibly have in the bath. Nothing worked! He was focused. Like most kids his age, he knew what he wanted! What followed was a 1-hour episode that resulted in leaking underpants and a pee trail that went from the living room to the bedroom. Thankfully, the kitchen was spared.

In the end, I lifted him up and took him to the shower. I thought that could help because honestly, nothing was helping. Instead, he got more agitated. His tantrums peaked. He was uncontrollable. I reminded myself constantly of that one single virtue every parent should have, patience.

I poured water on his head against his will in the hope that it will cool him down. Suddenly, there was silence as the water splashed on his head, straightening his hair, running through his eyes and face. He looked calm and he was not crying. What seemed like a never-ending ordeal had finally come to an end.

I could finally get back to making and clicking my Spicy Tofu cubes.

Our helper, D, makes this Indonesian/Malay recipe. This is my version of it. D usually deep fries the tofu and I have a natural aversion for anything deep fried in my regular cooking. In addition, it makes the tofu cubes lose all the moisture from inside. So, my version has stir fried Tofu / Paneer.

To print this recipe, click here.

(Serves 3 to 4)

Ingredients:

Firm Tofu: 250 gms
(Alternatively, you could use Paneer and follow the same recipe. I make it interchangeably and it works just fine).
Dried red chillies: 20 – 25 depending on the size of the chillies
Garlic: 3 pods
Galangal (or Thai Ginger): ½ inch pc
Kaffir lime leaves: 6, torn
Long / String beans: 6 cut into 2” long pcs
Sugar: ½ tsp
Salt: to taste
Oil: 3 tbsp

How I did it:

Cut the dried red chillies into 2. Shake it off so that the seeds come out. Throw the seeds away. Add hot water enough to soak the red chillies and microwave it for 15 seconds. You can also soak it in hot water for 10 minutes. This will soften the dried red chillies. Now wash the chillies under running water gently rubbing it and removing any seeds you can. This step is important to ensure that the chilli paste does not become overly spicy.

There are many varieties of Tofu available in the market. Use the “firm” tofu to make this dish. If you use tofu that is soft or silk tofu, the tofu will crumble. If you do not have tofu and assuming you have paneer (or Indian home made cheese), use that instead. Cut the tofu / paneer into 1” cubes. Rub some salt on this Tofu and keep aside.

Pound garlic using a mortar and pestle.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a non-stick pan. Add the tofu cubes and lightly fry it until gets a light brownish color. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the pound garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds on low heat. Add the sliced onions and sugar. Soften the onions on medium heat stirring frequently (approx. 5 mins). Add the chilli paste (about 3 tbsp) and salt. Cook the chilli paste on slow heat until the oil separates. This may take up to 10 mins. Once done, add the Galangal to this mix. Stir for another 2 mins.

Add 1/3 cup water to moisten this paste. Next, add the long beans and cook it on medium heat stirring occasionally. If it is dry, add some more water (3 – 4 tbsp). Remember that the long beans should be crunchy and not overcooked.

Now add the pan fried tofu / paneer cubes along with the torn kaffir lime leaves.

Combine everything together to ensure that the tofu / paneer is uniformly coated with the chilli paste. Stir for another 5 minutes on low heat.

Serve with rice. As this dish is high on heat, I prefer to have something cooling along with it like mix vegetable clear soup and an everyday cucumber/tomato light salad.

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Destination: Bangkok [Vegetarian Thai fried rice or Khao Pad Chae]

August 1996, New Delhi.

I had left Delhi under very chaotic circumstances. No, Delhi did not get more chaotic, but my life on that day most certainly was! The courier company had screwed up my package with the air tickets. Apparently, they had sent it to Bombay! My dad was in Bangkok at that time and I was to fly to Bangkok at midnight. I could see the world conspiring against me.. It would be meaningless to take the next flight as I was flying just a day before my Uni entrance exams. I retired into my room after a very stressful day of angry phone calls and a never ending wait…

Bang! Bang! Bang!

I woke up rubbing my eyes.. Some one was banging on the door! It’s only 10:30 pm for heaven’s sake! Let me sleep, I mumbled..

I opened the door somewhat pissed off. It was my uncle. He had just returned from work. The tickets had arrived! But, it was 10:30 pm. I hadn’t even packed! I was leaving the country!  This can’t be happening!!

In the next 10 minutes, my mother dumped my essentials into a bag and we were on the road. It was a good 30 minutes drive to the airport. I went in to the check-in counter while the rest of my family waited outside the airport. It was closed. I pleaded, I almost cried. It had worked in the past. And, it did, again! A staff came back, opened the counter for me. Before I knew, I was through immigration!

My family was waiting outside the airport not knowing whether I am flying or not.. And I was running inside the airport with no sense of what was going on. I was going where I was meant to go, worried that my family must be waiting outside. In those days, we didn’t have mobile phones. I was desperate to send a message across to my family, that I am flying off.. and a hug.. and a good bye.. In all the rush, I saw an airline staff just before boarding the flight. There was something about her which made me trust her.. or may be I did not have any other option. I asked her if she could page my uncle to let him know that I am flying off. She agreed. I came to know the next day that she did:)

That evening, as the flight took off, I was sad. I was leaving my country for a long long time without saying good bye to my family and close friends…

I was out of the airport in Bangkok, all alone, expecting to see my Dad. But, there was no one. Not for the next 10 minutes. Not for the next 30 minutes. I decided to call him using a public telephone. And suddenly it hit me! I had no money!!! Nothing at all. Not even a coin to make a phone call. In all the mad rush of last night, everyone forgot about money! I asked someone for help, all in sign language. This stranger gave me a coin and told me how to use the phone, all in gestures. I could not have asked for more!!

Thanks to the time difference and chaos, my Dad wasn’t aware that I had eventually boarded the flight last night! In the next 30 minutes, my Dad arrived and I was on the way to my new home…

And now.. for today’s recipe. This one is my mom’s favorite! She is a vegetarian and one that loves all her veges nice and crunchy! If you love your veges, you’ve gotta try this out!

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

String Beans: 2 to 3
Carrot: 1/3 of a medium sized carrot
Capsicum: 1/4th of a big capsicum
Cabbage: roughly 5 to 6 leaves
Thai / Chinese green leaves: 4 to 5 leaves. I used Xiao Ban Cye (you can use any other locally available greens)
Thai Garlic (or any other garlic) – 6pcs if using small Thai garlic. 3 if using the bigger garlic
Thai Chillies: 2 red and 2 green (tone this down if you don’t like it extra spicy)
Lime leaves: 3
A Bowl of cold pre-cooked rice
1/2 medium sized Onion (optional)
Vegetarian oyster sauce – 1 tbsp
Light Soya sauce – 1 tbsp
Oil – 1 1/2 tbsp
Wok
Sliced cucumber for garnishing
2 chopped chillies with 3 to 4 tbsp light soya sauce (in case the 4 chillies were not enough like they weren’t for me!)

How I did it:

Cut the long beans, capsicum and carrot into 2″ long pieces. Carrots should be cut into thin and long pieces. Roughly cut the cabbage and green leaves into big chunky leafy pieces. Pound the garlic and chillies together in a mortar and pestle.

In order to make fried rice, as far as possible, use left over rice from the fridge. When freshly cooked rice is used, it does not turn out the same way as freshly cooked rice tends to stick together into lumps.

Heat a wok. Once hot, add the oil. When it gets smoky, add the pounded garlic and chilli mix into the oil. Stir fry for 30 seconds. If using onions, add sliced onions at this point. Let it turn translucent. Next, add the carrots and beans. Continue to stir on high heat. Reduce heat for 1 min to let the beans and carrot cook.

Now add the cabbage, green leaves, capsicum and the torn kaffir lime leaves. Increase heat to high. Add the soya sauce. The smoke adds a nice flavor to this dish. It is important to stir this continuously to avoid the veges from getting burnt. This may take 30 seconds to a minute.

Once the veges are crunchy and cooked, add the bowl of cold rice, basil leaves and vegetarian oyster sauce. Stir continuously and on high heat. Check for salt and add more soya / vegetarian oyster sauce, if needed. Combine all the ingredients (on high heat). This may take up to 1 minute depending on the heat.

Serve with sliced cucumber and chopped chillies with soya sauce. The vegetables lose their crunchiness if kept cooked for long. So enjoy it immediately after cooking! 🙂