20 January 2013

Pan-fried tofu with tangy Thai sauce

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).

I only used half a pack of tofu, but had enough sauce for an entire block (I'll just have to find something to do with the leftover sauce...though it's so good that I feel like I could just drink it!). Go for firm or extra-firm tofu, though a softer variety would be fine too (just make sure to avoid silken tofu). This makes the perfect snack, appetizer or side dish to accompany fried rice, noodles or anything else that your heart desires.

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.


  1. My favorite part of this dish?!?!?? The lemongrass! Mamma mia this sounds (and LOOKS!) good! :D

  2. This looks absolutely amazing. I have been looking for more creative ways to incorporate tofu rather than just in stir frys and I think this looks like I might have to move this to the top of my "must try" list. Yum! After 2 weeks of fresh light ingredients in Burma this looks like just the thing to brighten my drab, grey January!

  3. Oh that sauce sounds and looks so good.. I could probably also drink it :D

  4. Tofu is a controversial food. Go easy on it. The receipe is good, but just want to point out to a fact about Tofu.

  5. Your sauce sounds yummy! I don't like fried tofu, I guess I would just have it with slightly sauteed tofu. Or I would use the sauce with other foods.-Mom

  6. I have been looking for "friendly" tofu recipes to get the hubster on board the tofu wagon and this just may be it. I mean, how do you resist a fried tofu cake with this spicy flavorful sauce? I also love the colors and textures of the sauce and think it'd a lovely sauce with some egg rolls or fried wontons. Clearly, my love of fried food runs deep :)

  7. Wow look at all those delicious colors and ingredients. Thanks for sharing it looks amazing.

  8. Looks beautiful, and delicious. I love the texture of pan-fried tofu!

  9. I cooked some tofu last night in a Japanese style vegetarian dish. This has given me inspiration for the rest of the packet.

  10. I've been craving a really good tofu dish and might need to introduce this to my parents as well for the next family dinner! This would probably be a good use of the leftover sauce when cooking fried rice.