Yes, as you may have read, I’m a tofu convert. And I’m convinced you’d be too — if only you could taste this:
After making this recipe for a Thai-inspired shrimp and tofu cocktail, culled from “The New Soy Cookbook” by Lorna Sass (actually an old soy cookbook that’s been on my shelf for years), I brought the leftovers into the office and said: “OK, who hates tofu?”
It was an experiment meant to prove that despite what too many people think, tofu is not only nutritious, it’s delicious. One of my co-workers refused to even taste my tofu-and-shrimp cocktail (her loss), but another naysayer was so impressed she said, “Wow! I’d make that!” And now she can, and so can you. Here’s the recipe:
Thai-Inspired Shrimp and Tofu Cocktail (serves four)
8 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu
1 4-inch stalk of lemongrass (measure from the fleshy bulb upward), bruised outer leaves removed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
8 ounces cooked fresh shrimp, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup English or Persian cucumber, finely diced
1. Bring a small pot of water to a rapid boil. Carefully set the block of tofu in the water, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, press as follows: loosely wrap the cooked tofu in multiple layers of a clean kitchen towel. Set it on a plate and place a 1-pound bag of beans (or its weight-equivalent) on top and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. In a food processor (or sturdy blender), process the lemongrass until it’s finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Then add the garlic cloves and process to a fine chop. Add the cilantro, red curry paste (or crushed red pepper flakes), lime juice, fish sauce and oil and process till well blended.
3. Slice the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut each cube in half to create triangles. In a medium serving bowl, gently toss together the tofu, shrimp, red onion and cucumber. Pour on the dressing while stirring, tossing until all of the ingredients are evenly coated, and serve immediately.
The Asian ingredients listed here– including tofu made fresh from local purveyors — are widely available at Greater Seattle’s many Asian food markets, among them Uwajimaya, Viet-Wah, 99 Ranch and H Mart, though this being Seattle, you can do pretty well at your average American supermarket, too.
If you want to prep the dish in advance, don’t add the cucumber until you’re ready to serve, or better yet, do as I did: keep the dressing separate and toss just before serving. If you like things spicy, feel free to up the red curry-paste ante. Sensitive to salty dishes? Reduce the amount of flavorful fish sauce by half.
Also: The simmering and pressing process is meant to help the tofu better-absorb its marinade, according to the instructions in “The New Soy Cookbook.” But in the name of science, I made a small “extra” batch using extra-firm tofu straight — no simmering, no pressing — and didn’t notice a discernible difference. Your call.