When searching for new recipes I find myself constantly going back to asian cuisine. First off, the pictures are so enticing. When I see tofu and veggies marinated in a beautiful sauce, served with rice or noodles I can’t help but salivate a little. Second, time and again, when talking with friends I find that homemade asian food is what they struggle with most. Perhaps it’s because some asian ingredients can seem to foreign to us and when trying dishes at restaurants, the flavors often feel like they will be impossible to replicate…. often arousing suspicion that it may harbor an unknown and unacknowledged fish sauce or shrimp paste! This dish will show you that you can easily make some of the most flavorful and most beautiful, vegetarian, asian cuisine in your own home and without using any hard to find or exotic ingredients. Every ingredient in this dish can be found at your local, American, grocery store.
Nuoc mau is a soy-caramel sauce that is an essential component of many of Vietnamese dishes. Not often thought to be in the culinary realm of the vegetarian, even Vietnamese cooking can be adapted for vegetarians while maintaining a genuinely ethnic flavor profile. This technique of caramel cooking works amazingly well to produce a crusty, deeply flavored tofu that is glazed with a sweet and savory sauce. Traditionally a labor intense process, this much simpler technique allows you to create the sauce right in the pan with your tofu. Adding thinly sliced onions is the secret to kicking the flavor of the tofu up a notch, and separating the broccoli and mushrooms to be cooked simply with the savory soy adds a nice balance to the sweetness of the tofu. This dish is magnificent to taste, exquisite to the eye, and a delight to all the senses.
Yield: 4 servings
1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari (gluten free)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound extra-firm tofu, patted thoroughly dry and cut into 2 x 2 x 1/3 inch pieces
3 to 4 cups broccoli florets
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced white onions
4 to 8 dried small red chiles (optional)
5 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Whisk together the rice wine, rice vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, heavy skillet (preferable cast iron) over high heat. Add the mushrooms and broccoli and sauté for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce and let cook for several minutes until broccoli is cooked but still crunchy. Remove form skillet and set aside.
Next, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in the same skillet and return heat to high. Lay the tofu squares in the skillet in a single layer (or as close to a single layer as possible). Pan fry until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes.
Flip the tofu and immediately pour in the sauce; add the white onions and chiles, if using. The sauce will sizzle and begin to caramelize. Keep a close eye on it, and move the tofu around a little bit to let the sauce get under it.
Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and forms a fairly thick glaze coating the tofu, about 4 minutes more. Add in the broccoli.
Serve immediately, topped with scallions. We love to serve it with short grain brown rice.
Recipe adapted from Michael Natkin, herbivoracious