Monday, March 23, 2015

Tofu "Pakoras" in Tomato and Coconut Curry

The recipe begins with well-seasoned chickpea flour.

Water is added to create a thick-ish batter.

After pressing and draining tofu, the bean curd is cut in to pieces and dipped in batter.

The tofu should be added to the skillet only when the oil is hot. It's also important to maintain a medium heat while frying the tofu.

Battered fried tofu.

Properly fried tofu should not be too oily when removed from the skillet.

Like most Indian curry sauces, this one begins by frying onions to a rich, golden brown.

The sauce simmers prior to adding the fried tofu.

Slowly simmering the tofu in the masala sauce helps it to absorb a world of flavor.

Tofu Pakora Curry with Lentil Sprouts, Basmati Rice and Chopped Salad

Always serve the tofu "pakoras" with plenty of the curry sauce.


And leftovers for lunch.

More leftovers the day after the next day, with more a garden salad with sesame dressing and creamy red cabbage coleslaw.


Pakoras are deep-fried vegetables coated in a batter made from spicy chickpea flour. Served as appetizers, snacks or simply alongside entree dishes, pakoras are also often simmered in a thick sauce of tart yogurt and more chickpea flour to create a wet, soupy curry eaten with rice. Cafe Drake HRV's variation is something altogether different but inspired by the traditional Indian version. It's turned out to be such an exciting creation, one we now make at least once a month, that we had to share it with you.

Start with 1 14-oz. block of extra-firm tofu. Wrap tightly with two paper towels, place on a chopping board and top the tofu with a heavy weight such as an iron skillet or a bowl filled with dried beans. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, unwrap the tofu and pat it dry with a clean kitchen cloth. Slice in half horizontally and then cut in to squares, triangles or, as seen above, triangles. Set aside.

In a medium size bowl mix together 3 T. chickpea flour and 2 T. rice flour. Stir in 1 T. garam masala, 1/2 t. cumin powder, 1/4 - 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and salt and black pepper to taste. Now slowly add water and stir, adding water until you have a smooth batter, just a tiny bit thicker than pancake batter. Add 2 T. very finely minced cilantro and 1-2 small hot green chilies, also finely minced. 

Begin heating 3 T. vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Allow the oil to become quite hot. Dip the tofu pieces in the batter; make sure to at least lightly coat both larger sides, or all sides, if the tofu has been cut in to cubes. Fry in a single layer in the skillet, leaving a bit of space between each "pakora." Fry for 2 minutes  and then flip and cook an additional 2 minutes on the other side. Don't flip the tofu too early or it may stick.

Continue frying the tofu in batches as needed, removing the finished ones to a paper towel to drain. When all of the tofu has been fried, reduce heat to medium-low and add to the skillet 1 small, diced red onion. Cook gently until golden brown but not burned. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 T. minced or grated ginger. Cook for 1 minute then stir in 1/2 t. turmeric powder, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper, 2 t. coriander powder and 1 t. garam masala. Stir for a few seconds and quickly add: 5 canned plum tomatoes (crushed in your hands or roughly chopped) along with their juices, 1 cinnamon stick and 1 bay leaf. Simmer briskly (raising the heat if needed) uncovered until the tomatoes begin to break down and create a sauce. 

Pour in 1/2 cup water and simmer 5 minutes before adding 1/2 can coconut milk. Season now with salt and black pepper to taste and 2 t. sugar. Stir to combine and add the tofu pakoras back to the skillet. Cook for 10 minutes on a low heat.Turn the pakoras gently now and then to make sure they absorb the sauce.

Finally, remove from heat and taste the sauce for seasoning, correcting as needed. Squeeze half a lime over the contents of the skillet. Scatter chopped cilantro over all and serve with rice or your favorite Indian bread or warmed pita. A salad as basic as leaf lettuce and sliced onions, dressed with just lemon juice and salt, is a perfect accompaniment.

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