In America, people are familiar with using tofu in stir-fries and soups.
Another very savory and delicious way of preparing tofu, much loved throughout tropical Asia, is shallow-frying. It’s a great method. When you cut tofu into squares and shallow-fry them, they become puffy golden pillows – lightly crisp on the outside, soft and mellow on the inside. And, as the Asians do, you can serve these inviting morsels with any of literally hundreds of sauces.
We’ve selected a Tai-inspired vegetarian tamarind sauce that’s both fruit and savory, and topped the dish with Thai Garlic Chips, fresh scallions, and cilantro.
Sweet-and-Sour Tamarind Sauce
½ cup vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon palm sugar or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons liquid tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
Golden Tofu Squares
One 24-ounce bottle peanut or vegetable oil
one 15-ounce package soft (silken) tofu, drained and cut into 12 pieces about 2 ¼ x 1 ¼ x I inch
2 slender scallions (white and tender green parts), angle-cut into thin slices
Thai Fried Garlic chips (see below)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, including the stems.
1. To make the sauce, heat the vegetable broth and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and well blended with the broth and bring to boil. Stir in the tamarind sauce and soy sauce, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, stirring a few times, until the sauce begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Cover and set aside, off the heat.
2. To make the tofu squares, pour the oil into a large, deep skillet and heat over medium-high heat to 360 degrees F. (To test the oil temperature, dip a wooden spoon in the hot oil; it should bubble and sizzle around the bowl of the spoon.) Fry the tofu squares, a few at a time, turning them after about 1 minute on each side, until puffy and golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Remove with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on a baker’s rack with paper towels placed underneath.
3. Gently rewarm the sauce, if necessary. Transfer the fried tofu to a serving platter and sprinkle with the scallions and garlic chops. Top with the cilantro. Serve hot, with the tamarind sauce on the side.
Thai Fried Garlic Chips
1 cup peanut or vegetable oil
¼ cup thinly sliced garlic (about 12 cloves)
1. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, drop in a slice of garlic. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. Add the rest of the garlic and stir-fry just until it becomes aromatic and turns a pale golden color, about 1 ½ minutes.
2. Remove the skilled from the heat, lift the garlic chips out of the oil with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, and transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve warm, or at room temperature. The chips will keep for a few days if stored in an air-tight container.