Not too long ago, I discovered a delightful Korean cooking website called Maangchi. Since I've really been into Korean food since my trips to Seoul last year, I've been digging Maangchi's cute videos (which she's been posting on YouTube since 2007), yummy recipes and excellent explanations of Korean ingredients. She has a dedicated section of vegetarian dishes, including various banchan (side dishes) which are the real highlight of Korean cuisine, in my humble opinion. One of my favorites is her recipe for pan-fried tofu with spicy sauce which was the inspiration for this delicious tofu dish.
Maangchi's version is decidedly Korean in flavor, with a sauce of garlic, scallion, soy sauce, sugar, chili flakes and sesame oil. If you like Korean food (or Asian food in general), you must make this! If you have any leftover sauce, try mixing it into scrambled eggs for a real special breakfast, as I did this morning. But I do live in Thailand after all, so decided to make a Thai version, with a sauce of lemongrass, garlic, bird's eye chili, ginger, lime juice and other Thai flavors. The result? Absolutely delicious! I particularly loved the taste of fresh lemongrass in the sauce. You want to use only the white portion of the stalk and to chop it very finely, first into rings and then into little shreds (separate any rings that don't chop neatly with your fingers).
PAN-FRIED TOFU WITH TANGY THAI SAUCE
Serves 2-4 as a snack, appetizer or side dish
Inspired by Maangchi
300-400 gram (10-14 ounce) pack tofu (preferably firm or extra-firm), drained and washed
1 tablespoon canola or sunflower oil
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 small bird's eye chilies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mushroom sauce or light soy sauce (or fish sauce for non-vegetarian version)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sweet chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander
1 inch piece ginger, finely grated
Fried shallots or onions, for garnish (optional)
1. Wrap the drained and washed tofu in paper towels to absorb excess water. Place a bowl or other light weight on top and let rest for 5 minutes.
2. Unwrap the tofu and chop into two blocks. Slice into thin rectangle shapes. Each block should yield about 8 rectangles, or 16 rectangles total.
3. Warm the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
4. When oil is hot, place the tofu slices onto the pan. Fry for 5-7 minutes on one side until golden brown, then flip and do the same on the other side.
5. While the tofu is frying, mix all of the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl to make the sauce.
6. When tofu has finished frying, place onto a paper towel-lined plate and blot with additional paper towel to absorb oil.
7. Arrange vertically on a serving plate and spoon the sauce on top. Top with fried shallots or onions, if desired. Eat right away.