Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Panang Tofu

Last Friday, I took a co-worker out to a nice Thai restaurant to celebrate his 30th birthday. He was born in 1979, the year Blondie's "Heart of Glass," Village People's "YMCA," and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" hit Top 10 on the Billboard charts.

"We are family! I've got all my sisters with me! We are family! Get up everybody and sing!"

At the Thai restaurant, I ordered panang tofu, and it was really good. I mean really, really, really good. I looked online for a recipe for this dish. I found such a recipe via Bon Appetit and decided to try it out, with a few modifications.

The end result? I thought it was good. My partner loved it, which was surprising, because he's not a fan of peanut butter, which is one of the main ingredients in this dish. I would, however, like to further "hack" this recipe in the near future and try, among other things, cutting back, if not eliminating, the turmeric powder, and perhaps kicking up the amount of chili paste and peanut butter.

All in all, though, I highly recommend trying this basic recipe for panang tofu.

The total cost of ingredients (excluding the cost of basic pantry staples) to make this dish came to $12.42, which included the shallots ($0.80), chili paste ($3.99), 2 limes ($0.34), broccoli ($0.58), carrots ($0.69), tofu ($4.68), and 1 can of coconut milk ($1.34).

Panang Tofu
Makes approximately 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoons, finely minced garlic (approximately 2 garlic cloves)
2 teaspoons, finely minced ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon hot chili paste (any basic Asian chili paste will do)
1 cup water
1 14 ounce-can coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves or 3 tablespoons lime juice and 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lime peel (I used lime juice and lime peel)
2 14-ounce packages extra-firm tofu, drained, and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups broccoli (1 large crown), cut into bite-sized pieces
Vegetable oil
1/2 cup of corn starch

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubes of tofu in the corn starch and saute until the tofu cubes are browned on all sides. Remove from the skillet and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, and garlic, and cook until the shallots become soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, chili paste, and peanut butter, and continue cooking for about 1 minute. Add the water, coconut milk, brown sugar, lime juice, and grated lime peel (or lime leaves). Whisk until all the ingredients in the skillet are combined.

Add the carrots and broccoli, and continue cooking until the carrots become tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt, to taste. Lastly, stir in the cubes of tofu and serve, preferably with white rice. (I would not add the tofu earlier, because the corn starch coating might cause the sauce to overly thicken, which is not the desired consistency.)

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