When my friends were visiting for my bachelorette weekend, we had one night where we cooked and ate dinner and then hung out drinking wine at my house, and this is what I made for dinner. It’s one of CW’s favorite meals I make, too. Lately it’s my go-to meal when I want to make something that is both interesting and a crowd pleaser. It’s completely vegan and it’s really flavorful and satisfying, so even meat eaters will eat it without thinking about the fact that there’s no animal protein involved.
I feel a bit silly about sharing the recipe, since it’s primarily dependent on canned curry paste from my local Asian grocery store. I certainly do not make my own curry paste, nor would I be likely to even bother trying that — especially when I can get the pre-made stuff at the store and it’s so, so tasty.
So, the curry aspect of this recipe is nothing you couldn’t figure out on your own, honestly. I’m not really giving you anything there. “Thanks for nothing, KO,” you will say to me. “I could’ve gotten that recipe from the curry paste can myself.”
Well, hold on a minute there, because I do have something worth sharing: my extremely excellent baked tofu procedure for making tofu that has the perfect texture and tons of flavor. Could such a thing really exist? Indeed, it could. It does. This is it. You’re welcome.
1 jar or can of curry paste (I used red)
1-2 cans coconut milk (the standard can size)
1 cube tofu
1 head broccoli, cut into large florets
2-3 carrots, cut into sticks
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
2 tbsp sesame oil (or olive will work too)
These are just my favorite vegetables to use most often, but really anything you like would work. Sweet potatoes are good, fall squashes…I’ve even tried avocado with a green curry. Go wild.
(Buy the kind in a plastic tray filled with water, not the “silken” kind that comes in a tetrapak box.)
OK, this part right here is the secret to my years of tofu success. The two main things that tofu really needs to have in order to be tasty, in my opinion, are texture and flavor. In its natural state, tofu does not exactly, errrr, have these qualities. It is bland and slimy, right?
The following procedure will easily take care of both those problems. It will give you good, crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside, flavorful tofu.
I mean, look; you don’t have to listen to me about this, but if you go rogue and prepare the tofu in your own (wrong) way, don’t come crying to me about it.
So. Here’s the secret: freeze the tofu in its package overnight and thaw it in a bowl of warm water the morning you want to cook it. That’s the big thing. Freeze it. It sounds crazy, but what it does is it causes the water in the tofu to expand and break down the tofu’s structure a bit, making teeny little holes all through it like a sponge. When you drain the tofu, more water will come out, leaving empty little sponge holes into which your marinade can now soak. Total game changer.
All righty. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to try freezing the tofu overnight. Now let’s do this thing:
Preheat oven to 425.
Open and drain frozen and thawed tofu, then gently squeeze the block to get out as much excess water as you can. You’ll be amazed how much water you can squeeze out. Just don’t go crazy and completely smash or break your tofu block.
Dice the tofu any way you like. I like triangles. (I cut this into six slices as if it were a loaf of bread, then halved each slice into two squares, then halved those diagonally for a total of 24 triangles. That’s math.)
In a large bowl, combine 2 tbsp oil with about 1 tbsp curry paste (adjust the amount of paste for your desired heat level).
Toss the tofu in this mixture until it’s pretty well coated. It can go in the oven any time after this step, or you can let it marinate for a while.
Put tofu squares on a foil-lined baking sheet that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray or oiled. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. Boom. Tofu greatness achieved.
It’s already awesome, so snack on a piece if you like, then set it aside to await its curry destiny.
Empty 1-2 cans of coconut milk into a large saucepan / deep skillet with lid over medium heat. (Number of cans depends on how much you want to make — I do two cans to feed either three or four people, or two people who like leftovers.)
Add about 1 tbsp of curry paste at a time, mixing it in and tasting frequently until you get to your desired heat level. You’ll use more or less based on how much coconut milk you’re using. I use about 75% of the can of Maesri brand paste. The Thai Kitchen brand that’s commonly available at Kroger and other big grocery stores, on the other hand, doesn’t pack a lot of heat, so I would use the whole can and then maybe even add some dried chilis or something. Use caution until you get to know your paste.
Once it’s all mixed in, start adding the vegetables. I put carrots in first, then broccoli, then bell peppers, based on what cooks fastest. Let it start bubbling over medium heat, then cover and simmer over low heat until the veggies are as tender as you’d like them.
You can start your rice around the same time you start adding the vegetables. I use a rice cooker and just set it and forget it.
Once the vegetables are tender, add the baked tofu, stirring to incorporate it and get it sauced up, then let it continue to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Serve over rice or quinoa, with cilantro, lime, sriracha, or whatever you like. Bask in your success.