November 17, 2005
Thai-influenced Tofu and Basil with Coconut Rice

Make this dish. Trust me on this one. If you like Asian flavors at all, you will like this dish.

This is not the classic Thai Basil dish you may be familiar with. It's not even Thai basil in the dish, but the same old familiar basil I've been growing all year long. The flavors are influenced by Thai coking, and it wouldn't be out of place in most Thai restaurants.

The base for the sauce is coconut milk and lime juice, a classic Southeast Asian combination. You can find coconut milk in cans in most big-city supermarkets. Check in the Asian and Latin sections of your market.

Goya sells a good can of coconut milk (which sure beats working with a tiny stool and milk bucket trying to get a new mother coconut to lactate).

Omit the nam pla if you want this to be a truly vegetarian/Vegan dish. Adding fresh peanuts or cashews to the dish would be welcome. We didn't have any at home. We have pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and probably some soynuts, but no peanuts. Go figure. If you do add the peanuts, add them near the end or just before serving so they retain their fresh taste and texture.

But seriously, go make this for dinner. After you've done the chopping and prep, this dish comes together very quickly.

Thai-influenced Tofu and Basil with Coconut Rice
1 pound firm tofu (not silken)
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce)
2 tablepoon soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon "Rooster" hot sauce (Huy Fong Sriracha Garlic Hot Sauce)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
2 cans coconut milk, divided
1/2 can medium grain rice (about a cup)
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 medium white or yellow onion
5 jalapenos
1 red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
10-12 basil leaves, chopped rough
1/4 cup chopped clilantro

Place the tofu block on a plate covered several layers thick with paper towels. Place more paper towels on top of the tofu, a plate on top of the paper towels and a weight on top of the plate. You can use the cans of coconut milk if you like. Press for 30 minutes to extract much of the water from the tofu.

Meanwhile, mix up a tablespoon of the sesame oil, a tablespoon of nam pla, one tablespoon of the hot sauce, one tablespoon of the soy sauce and one tablespoon of lime juice. This will be the marinade.

slice the jalapenos into quarters lengthwise. Cut out the seeds and white membranes and discard. Cut the jalapeno quarters lengthwise into long thin strips.

Remove the seeds and membranes from the red bell pepper and cut the into 1/8" wide strips. If the pepper was a large one, cut the strips in half.

Peel and mince the garlic.

When the tofu has been pressed, cut it into strips about 1/2" x 1/8" x 1" or so, or into any shape you prefer. The more surface area you have, the more marinade will coat the strips. Place the tofu and the marinade in a bowl and stir gently to coat. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat any pieces that have drained.

In a saucepan, combine the rice and one can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until the milk is absorbed completely, and the rice is cooked through, about 7-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic, onion, and mushrooms and sautee for 5-7 minutes until the onions start to go translucent and the mushrooms have softened up.

Add the second can of coconut milk and 1/4 cup of lime juice to the skillet along with the red pepper, the jalapenos, the tofu with marinade, and the cliantro and basil leaves. Stir gently. Heat through (about five minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve over coconut rice.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at November 17, 2005 7:41 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

wasn't there cilantro too?

this really was delicious. more pics here, here, and here.

Posted by paul on November 17, 2005 at 9:49 AM

You are correct. I've updated the recipe. Thanks for catching that.

Posted by barrett on November 17, 2005 at 9:58 AM

Question: could one substitute fish or white meat for the tofu if one has a tofu-averse spouse? He has a thing about it. And this definitely sounds like a recipe to try!

Posted by Meg in Paris on November 17, 2005 at 10:30 AM

Meg, if you try it with fish, I'd go with a nice firm whitefish like cod. There's a lot of flavor in the ingredients, so you probably don't want a delicate fish like sole. The flavor woudl be wasted.

You could try chicken, but you might want to amp up the nam pla/soy sauce in the marinade.

Posted by barrett on November 17, 2005 at 10:56 AM

Thought I'd point out that this was quite good even with my omission of the coconut milk. Maybe tangier than many will like, but good on those occasions when you don't want so much delicious delicious saturated fat (or calories for that matter). Also, is it possible to get fresh coconut milk in Chicago or other big cities in the US? I don't remember ever seeing it in DC, but maybe I wasn't looking. Fresh is always better, but in the case of coconut milk, it's so much better it isn't even funny. (not that the coconuts would be local, but rather the grating and milking would be done locally)

Posted by Justin on November 22, 2005 at 3:22 PM
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