I had this recipe for Peanut Tofu Stir Fry featured on Mic News in the article 10 Easy Dinner Recipes That Your Heart (And Wallet) Will Thank You For.
My main goal for this dish was to find a way to cook an entirely plant-based dish using tofu that could be enjoyed by vegans and omnivores alike. So don’t stop reading this just because you’re not vegan/vegetarian or gluten-free, because I made it specifically for everyone to enjoy!
Tofu seems to get a bad rap in the West, where a lot of people I’ve talked to about it seem to think that it’s something that should only be eaten by vegetarians or vegans.
I think there are two reasons for this:
Firstly, there aren’t very many different varieties of tofu easily available in supermarkets in the West, with the only distinction being made between firm, hard tofu and soft, silken tofu. But in Japan for example, you can find countless different varieties, all with slightly different consistencies, flavours and textures, which are all respectively suited for a variety of different dishes.
And secondly, because people tend to cook/eat tofu as a meat substitute. If you cook it expecting it to taste like meat, then you’re likely to be disappointed when you sit down to eat it, because the only thing it really has in common with meat is that it contains a lot of protein.
I think it’s a shame that tofu isn’t more popular because as an omnivore, I still think it’s really delicious if you’ve seasoned it properly, and it’s a much healthier protein-filled alternative to meat to eat once in a while.
An issue I encountered in my quest for an entirely plant-based tofu dish that could be enjoyed by vegans and omnivores alike is that although tofu is an integral part of the national cuisine in many Oriental countries, it’s usually served as a side dish alongside dishes containing meat or fish. But I wanted to create something that would make tofu taste delicious enough to make it the star of the show for once.
I found that the issue with the hard, firm tofu that you find in Western supermarkets is that it’s pretty resistant to soaking up flavours – I tried and failed several times to make it taste of anything. But this was because I was adding the seasoning during the cooking process.
I decided, therefore, that to make the tofu as flavourful as possible, I would cut it up into small cubes and marinate it for a few hours before cooking. I used this Cauldron Original Tofu, which is a hard, firm tofu that you can buy in most supermarkets.
I then made a very simple 4-ingredient marinade with peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce (you can substitute with chilli and sugar if you don’t have this), soy sauce and vinegar, and left the tofu to soften and soak up all of these flavours.
I then fried it with just a small amount of oil, which made the outside crisp and slightly caramelised, whilst the inside remained beautifully soft and tender, and the whole thing tasted wonderfully peanuty and delightfully savoury-sweet. The onions were rich and caramelised and the peanuts crunchy, roasted and golden brown. Plus it was given the seal of approval by my entire omnivore family!
I used pak choi and tenderstem broccoli for this stir fry, but you can use whatever vegetables you want: baby corn, mangetout, carrots, peppers, mushrooms etc. would all work well. The dish is best served with rice or rice noodles.
If you try out this recipe or anything else from my blog, I’d love for you to take a photo and tag it #rhiansrecipes on Instagram! It would really make my day to see what you come up with!
- Vegetable oil (or peanut oil), for frying
- 400g hard, firm tofu
- 1 onion, sliced
- Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Handful of peanuts
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- Vegetables: pak choi and tenderstem broccoli (or carrots, baby corn, peppers, mangetout, mushrooms etc.)
- 1 heaped tablespoon (preferably smooth but doesn’t really matter) peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce – I used Blue Dragon (you can substitute with chilli and sugar if you don’t have this)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari soy sauce if you’re gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (any white vinegar will do, but absolutely do not substitute with balsamic vinegar)
- Pat tofu dry with a paper towel, before cutting into small cubes
- In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the marinade
- Place the tofu in this bowl, making sure that every piece is covered in equal amounts of sauce – leave in fridge for a few hours
- Heat a generous glug of oil in a large wide-bottomed frying pan and add onions and peanuts once hot
- Fry for a few minutes until the onions have become softer, then add the tofu, spring onions and coriander
- Fry the tofu for about 5 minutes on each side – or until crispy, golden brown and slightly caramelised
- Once the tofu is done, transfer it to a bowl or plate for the time being (but leave some of the peanuts/onions/coriander/spring onions in the pan)
- Now cook your vegetables in this same frying pan (which should ideally still have some peanuts/onions/coriander/spring onions and residual sauce in it), and season them with some extra soy sauce whilst cooking, as you see fit – this process will make the onions brown and caramelised and the peanuts roasted and golden brown in colour
- Once the vegetables are done, you can either put the tofu back in the frying pan with them just to warm it up again, or just mix everything together in the bowl/plate and you’re ready to eat!
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