This is a great curry dish similar to delicious takeout versions, with a curry paste made from scratch. Making this was also the first time I ever got the tofu right in a dish I cooked at home.
The recipe comes from a booklet I picked up at a supermarket in London (I’m pretty sure it was the John Lewis Food Hall on Oxford Street, where I shopped nearly every other day on the way home from work!). It was printed by a tofu company, and looking now on their website, I see they have lots of other good-looking recipes there. No doubt I’ll be trying those very soon, especially now that I know how to cook tofu.
300g (10.5 oz.) firm tofu
3 Tbsp. dessicated coconut
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, peeled and sliced (or substitute 1 inch of lemongrass paste from a tube)
1 Tbsp. chili flakes
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 can coconut milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) water
1 tsp. tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water (pulp available at Asian supermarkets)
1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro (fresh coriander), roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
First, prepare the tofu. Rinse the block and wrap in a dishtowel, then place it on a plate with a cutting board on top. Put something heavy like a big cookbook on top to press out the water.
After about 10 minutes or so, unwrap the tofu and cut it into cubes. Heat a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat and fry the tofu pieces, turning often, until browned. Set aside.
Separately, heat a small, dry frying pan and add the coconut. Toast until lightly golden.
In a bowl, blend together the coconut, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chili flakes, ginger, turmeric, salt, and sugar.
Heat a small amount of oil in a large pot or deep frying pan. Add the paste and stir for a few minutes until fragrant.
Add the coconut milk, water, tamarind water, and five-spice powder, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir for another five minutes, then add the tofu and red pepper. Continue to cook gently for another 10 minutes, then stir in the cilantro.
Serve atop steamed rice (jasmine or even basmati). Garnish with cilantro.