While many folks tend to turn up their noses at the thought of eating tofu, it can actually be an amazing alternative to your traditional grilling proteins. In this recipe created in conjunction with Steven Raichlen, Ellen Kanner, author of Feeding the Hungry and Huffington Post's "Meatless Mondays," amps up the flavor of the tofu with her amazing chile peanut sauce!
GRILLED TOFU WITH CHILE PEANUT SAUCE
(Tauhu Bakar) from Steven Raichlen’s “Planet Barbecue;” image by Ben Fink
In Raichlen’s hands, tofu reveals itself to be “one of the greatest grilled meatless dishes on the planet. The secret? Charring the tofu over a blistering-hot fire and serving it with cool, crisp pineapple and cucumber and an intensely flavorful chile peanut sauce. Rarely has bean curd met fire with such felicitous results.”
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-size shallots minced (about 6 tablespoons)
1 piece (1 1/2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)
1/4 cup Malaysian or Chinese chile paste
1/4 cup firmly packed palm sugar or light brown sugar
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
About 1 1/2 pounds fried or extra-firm regular tofu
The sauce can be made several hours ahead. If you are using fresh tofu, allow 30 minutes for pressing it.
Heat the oil in a wok or shallow saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, shallots, ginger, cilantro, and shrimp paste, if using, and cook until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chile paste and palm sugar and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add the hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons of the peanuts, and the sesame seeds and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2/3 cup of water, reduce the heat to medium, and let the sauce simmer until it is thick and richly flavored, about 5 minutes, stirring often. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water. The chile peanut sauce can be made several hours ahead and stored at room temperature.
Cut the cucumbers crosswise into 1-1/2 inch-long pieces. Cut each piece lengthwise into approximately 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch sticks. Cut the pineapple crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Cutting around the core, cut each pineapple slice into sticks that are approximately 1-1/2 inches long and 1/4-inch wide. Arrange the cucumber, pineapple, and mung bean sprouts in individual piles on a platter.
Starting at a short end, cut each piece of tofu in half through the thickness to obtain 2 broad “steaks.” If you are using fresh, not fried tofu, you will need to press it to drain off the liquid and make the tofu firmer. Position a baking sheet or cutting board on a slant in a sink. Arrange the 4 pieces of tofu on top. Then place a second baking sheet or cutting board on top of them. Place a heavy weight, such as a cast-iron skillet, on top of the baking sheet or cutting board and let the tofu drain for 30 minutes.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.
Lightly brush each piece of tofu on both sides with a little of the chile peanut sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce into a bowl and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanuts on top.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the tofu pieces on the hot grate and grill them until nicely browned on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side. If you like, give each piece a quarter turn after 1 minute to create a handsome crosshatch of grill marks.
Transfer the grilled tofu to the platter with the cucumber, pineapple, and bean sprouts and serve at once. Eat the grilled tofu with some of the chile peanut sauce spooned over it, alternating bites of crisp cool cucumber, pineapple, and bean sprouts.
* Recipe courtesy of Ellen Kanner