Jul 082012

Spicy Thai Stir-Fry

          I will admit, right here and now, that I’ve never been a fan of tofu.  In all my years I’d yet to find a preparation that seemed particularly appealing.  An excellent source of protein, sure, a humane alternative to meat, poultry, and seafood, indeed, so I’ve eaten it now and again with that dutiful sense of sacrificing pleasure for dull nutrition.  But then….  Then I found a stir-fry recipe concocted by Robin Robertson.

          It seemed, as I read through the ingredient list, like any other stir-fry.  Nothing particularly inventive or unusual, nothing that ordinarily would make me look twice.  And yet look twice I did.  Still nothing unusual, still nothing particularly enticing.  But for a reason that I can’t quite grasp, I decided to try it.  (With several alterations.  I just can’t help myself.)  And I was stunned with the result.

          Broccoli and tofu, and not much else besides.  But somehow the combination of the scant ingredients worked perfectly.  The fried tofu seemed dense and almost meaty, the broccoli freshly bright.  Both glazed with soy sauce that was edged with spicy heat.  Playing off against that savory duo, the Thai basil seemed nearly sweet, especially when enhanced by the sprinkling of coconut.  So good, so simple, so inexpensively easy.  This stir-fry is cooking alchemy at its finest.

          And, to convey just how good it is, Paulo, my most beloved carnivore, my grill-master extraordinaire, loved the stir-fry, ate seconds, left the wok bereft of trace remnants.  He said, yes he did, that he happily would eat the stir-fry every week from now on.  As recommendations go, I can’t think of a better one than that.

Spicy Thai Stir-Fry

1 lb broccoli florets

3 T oil

12 oz tofu, well-drained, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 T sesame oil

4 medium shallots, thinly sliced

1 bird’s eye chile (or other very hot chile), thinly sliced crosswise

1 T fresh ginger, grated

3 T soy sauce

3/4 cup Thai basil leaves

unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

          Steam the broccoli until crisp-tender.  Drain well and set aside.  (If you are using thawed frozen florets, you can skip that step.  Simply use as is.)  Heat 2 T oil in a wok over medium-high heat.  When the oil is very hot, add half of the tofu.  Fry, stirring frequently, until golden brown all over, about 5 minutes, sprinkling with a little salt in the process.  Remove the tofu, leaving the oil behind.  Fry the other half of the tofu, sprinkling with salt, and remove from the wok.

          Add the other 1 T oil, along with the sesame oil, to the wok.  When hot, add the shallots, chile, and ginger.  Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the broccoli and soy sauce, stir to combine, then add the tofu.  Heat through, another few minutes.  Stir in the basil and remove from the heat.

          Serve over rice with the coconut sprinkled on top.

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11 Responses to “Spicy Thai Stir-Fry”

Comments (11)
  1. Hi Amy. I haven’t tried this yet but will, if you can help me out with a question.
    Q: My garden is lush with some fragrant, ruffly-leaved, jumbo basil plants. How do the Italian basils compare with Thai basil? 3/4 c. would be alot of this strong-flavored basil I’ve got.
    Idea: Tofu is much better marinated, then baked/fried.

    • Thai basil has a different flavor from regular basil, with a strong hint of anise/licorice. You could, however, substitute the latter for the former, simply keeping in mind that the finished product will taste quite a bit different from the original recipe. Sort of Italian mixed with Asian, if you can imagine such a thing. With regard to the quantity, certainly try a little less of the regular basil. It can indeed be quite strong.

      As for your suggestion, many thanks- I will have to try marinating tofu sometime. The frying turned out very well, so I’m guessing the marinating will, too.

  2. I used frozen broccoli and silken tofu and no chili because my family doesn’t like hot stuff. I can’t get Thai basil so I left that out. The stirfry was okay but I wouldn’t exactly call it so good.

    • I’m glad you tried the recipe! Though I do often encourage people to alter recipes to suit their tastes, sometimes elements are included for a specific reason and shouldn’t be excluded. The Thai basil is essential for this recipe. Somehow, it manages to tie all of the other ingredients together, making the dish as a whole so much tastier than the sum of its ingredients.

  3. Love your quick vegan recipes! They make cooking after work easy, so I don’t have to get bad take away.

  4. Wonderful….lucky Paulo!

  5. Reminds me of a dinner a college girlfriend used to make. Didn’t like her much, but the stir fry was good.

  6. Not a big fan of tofu either but I might give this one a try.

  7. I love your vegan recipes. I was wondering when you were going to start using tofu!

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