Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce

Have you tried it yet? Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce.

I got a small bottle a few days ago and it’s already almost half gone. Yes, it is that good.
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The ingredient list is short: chilies, salt, garlic, vinegar,  a couple of preservatives and a thickener. The taste is nothing short of delicious. It’s not super spicy, and the garlic and vinegar gives it a depth that cannot achieved with chili peppers alone. I used it with stir fried rice noodles, and now it’s made its way into my eggplants.

This is a simple recipe, think weekday meal in a pinch. The soft eggplant is a perfect “sponge” for the chili garlic sauce. I imagine green beans, asparagus, and carrots would also do well here (although perhaps not altogether in one dish).

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Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 2 Chinese eggplants (the long, skinny kind), sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (for moderately-spicy, adjust as needed)
  • ~400 g fried tofu, cut into cubes
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/8th wedges
  • 2-3 tbsp water for cooking

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the salt and eggplant, allow them to sit for 15 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a wok or large saute pan, heat up the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chili garlic sauce and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add eggplant and tofu, stir to coat in the yummy sauce. Add 2-3 spoonfuls of water to prevent burning. Cook for ~ 8-10 minutes.
  4.  Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salty/ spicy level as desired before serving.
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Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce (Dau Hu Sot Ca)

Here’s another episode in my food adventures with Christine! I love trying new recipes with friends because it’s so much fun to cook and taste new foods. And if the recipe doesn’t work out, you’ve at least shared a good laugh together.

tofu in tomato-pepper sauce

We made two Vietnamese dishes: crisp tofu in tomato-pepper sauce, and vegetables cooked in soy-sauce (recipe to follow). I would highly recommend both of these dishes if you’re looking for something a little different, but not too difficult.

Start by deep frying the tofu in 2 batches. Frying the tofu is probably the most time-intensive and technically challenging part (oil splatters during deep frying are not fun). You could try to coat the tofu in vegetable oil and baking it if you’re so inclined–maybe 425° F for 10-15 min, turning once during the cooking process. The sauce involves boiling tomatoes and a bunch of other seasonings together. The fried tofu gets coated in the tomato sauce, and the whole thing is garnished with thinly sliced scallions and cilantro.

For vegetarian and vegan-friendly version, substitute soy sauce for fish sauce.

What makes this dish so good? It’s the contrast of flavours and textures. The acidic tomatoes with salty fish sauce, slight hint of heat from the chili flakes, and mellowness from the sugar — everything is in perfect balance. The boldness of the ingredients work well with tofu, which is essentially a blank canvas for flavour. Deep frying tofu forms a crisp exterior with tiny bumps, which helps the sauce to cling on.

Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce

Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce

Recipe adapted from: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/crisp-tofu-cooked-tomato-pepper-sauce-dau-hu-sot-ca

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • 454 g medium-firm tofu, diced, 3 cm (1.25 inch) cubes
  • 200 mL vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced, 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) cubes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 100 mL water
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 5-6 sprigs coriander, minced

Method

  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add half of the tofu and fry on all sides until golden and crisp, drain on a plate. Repeat with other half of tofu.
  2. Leave 1 tbsp of the oil in the wok and pour out the rest. Over medium-high heat, stir-fry garlic, shallots, and chili flakes until fragrant, approx 30 -60 seconds. Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, fish sauce, and water. Reduce sauce by boiling uncovered for 10 minutes.
  3. Add pepper, spring onions, coriander, and fried tofu. Stir to coat with sauce.
  4. Serve with some form of starch (steamed rice for example).

What I would do differently next time:

  • Add more chili flakes (closer to 1 tsp, but this may be because my chili is old and not as flavourful)
  • Add more ground pepper (1 tsp rather than 1/2 tsp)
  • Maybe try with silken tofu

Tofu Coconut Soup (Vegan Friendly)

A warming bowl of nourishment, perfect for a relaxing and easy weeknight meal.
A warming bowl of nourishment, perfect for a relaxing and easy weeknight meal. Made with: tomatoes, mushrooms, tofu, coconut milk, lemongrass, lime, galangal, fish sauce, chilies, and lots of love.

Coconut milk is one of the staple ingredients in Thai cuisine, and it truly shines in this soup. Some of the ingredients, such as galangal and kaffir lime leaves, can be substituted for more easily found ones. However, I encourage you to gather the fresh galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves, since they do give a more authentic flavour. According to the people at EatingThaiFood.com, this soup is usually eaten with rice, like a curry.

Possible Variations:

  • Omit fish sauce and add 1/2 tsp salt to make it vegan.
  • Use vegetable/ chicken broth instead of water.
  • Add diced chicken or whole shrimp (adjust cooking time accordingly). 
  • Try these other veggies: baby corn, straw mushrooms, white mushrooms, bok choy, bell peppers, broccoli, carrot, eggplant, okra.

I was very happy with how this soup turned out. The salty, sour, and spicy flavours danced on my palate as I slurped the creamy broth by the spoonful. Watercress was slightly bitter, which worked well with the rich soup. And I simply loved how the cherry tomato would burst with its warm, sweet, tomato-y juice at the first bite.

Tofu Coconut Soup

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 4 slices fresh or dried galangal (substitute: 4 slices fresh ginger)
  • 6 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves, torn into large pieces (substitute: zest of 1 lime)
  • 4 stalks lemongrass, bottom 6 inches only, bruised with back of a knife and cut into 2 inch long pieces
  • 6 bird’s eye chilies, stems removed

Soup

  • 350 g medium-firm tofu, 1/4 inch cubes
  • 4-6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small bunch watercress, 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce (or to taste, substitute with 1/2 tsp salt for vegan option)
  • Juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

Method

  1. In a medium pot, bring water to boil over high heat, then turn heat down to medium. If using dried galangal or lime leaves, add them first and boil for 10 minutes before adding the rest of the stock ingredients and cooking for another 15 minutes. If using fresh versions, add all ingredients at once and boil for 20 minutes.
  2. Strain the stock into a large soup pot, discard the seasonings.
  3. Bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat, add tofu and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add shiitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Add watercress and coconut milk, cook until the watercress is just wilted (3-4 minutes), stirring frequently.
  6. Season with fish sauce, lime, and sugar.
  7. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

 

Serve with rice for complete meal: carbs, veggies, protein, fat. Add even more fibre by using brown rather than white rice.
Serve with rice for complete meal: carbs, veggies, protein, fat. Add even more fibre by using brown rather than white rice.

Penne with Thai Pesto, Sautéed Tofu and Chinese Chives

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It’s lunch time, I wanted to make a tofu curry, but I had no rice to go with it. Not wanting to wait for rice to cook, I rummaged through the cupboards to find some penne pasta. Aha, now I have carbs! I thought. What goes with pasta? My eyes landed on the package of Thai basil in the fridge, which got me thinking about… pesto! I could make a Thai pesto!

Thai pesto: roasted peanuts, basil, Chinese chives, bird's eye chilies, fish sauce.
Thai pesto: roasted peanuts, basil, Chinese chives, bird’s eye chilies, fish sauce, canola oil, and lime juice.

So I begun concocting the recipe. Thai basil was a given. I wanted to add garlic, but I had none. So I substituted Chinese chives, an authentic Thai ingredient which has a similar spicy kick. In place of pine nuts, I used roasted peanuts. A couple of seeded bird’s eye chilies went in for some heat. Fish sauce added saltiness and umami (kind of like Parmesan cheese, it’s a bit of a stretch, but bear with me here). Lime juice replaced lemon juice, that was a no brainer.

Pulse everything together until well-mixed.
Pulse everything together until well-mixed.

This pesto is so good that I ate it straight out of a spoon. Other more culinarily inspired uses could include: as a dressing for vermicelli salads, as a sauce for Thai-inspired ravioli, or as a topping for baked fish/ poultry.

Coat the pasta with the delicious pesto.
Coat the pasta with the delicious pesto.
I added some sauteed Chinese chives and firm tofu for a more well-balanced meal.
I finished the pasta with some sauteed Chinese chives and firm tofu for a more well-balanced meal.

Penne with Thai Pesto, Sautéed Tofu, and Chinese Chives

Serves: 1-2

Pesto Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup Chinese chives, cut into 1 inch segments
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 bird’s eye chilies, seeds removed
  • 1- 1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2-4 tablespoons canola oil

Pesto Method

  1. Put all ingredients except the canola oil into a mini food processor.
  2. Pulse, streaming in enough canola oil to make the mixture a thick paste.

Tofu & Chinese Chives Ingredients 

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup extra firm tofu, 1 cm cubes
  • 1.5 cups raw Chinese chives, 1 inch segments
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Tofu & Chinese Chives Method 

  1. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat until hot.
  2. Add tofu and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, turn heat down to medium.
  3. Add Chinese chives, ground coriander, salt, and white pepper.
  4. Cook until chives are wilted and tofu is lightly golden, adding water to the pan if it becomes too dry.

Pasta Ingredients 

  • 1- 1.3 cups uncooked penne pasta (more for 2 servings)
  • 2 L water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon salt

Pasta Method

  1. Bring water and salt to a rolling boil in a medium pan.
  2. Add pasta and cook until soft but still firm.
  3. Drain and mix with pesto (there may be some pesto leftover depending on how much pasta you used)
  4. Top with sauteed tofu and Chinese chives.

 

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Is it Thai or Italian? Both? Neither? Regardless, it’s delicious!