This Asian style tofu coconut curry is a little Thai and a little American organic farmer’s market. It was created out of ingredients I had on hand and ended up being one of those dishes that my family couldn’t get enough of. The leftovers went fast! The creamy coconut curry is comforting with just enough heat and acidity. The textures work wonderfully, with squash-like green papaya, crunchy bean sprouts, soft marinated tofu and just-cooked Swiss chard. If you don’t have some of these ingredients available, I’ve included a variety of substitutions in the recipe.
I happen to have a papaya tree in my yard (well, I HAD one in my yard). It was so full of unripe fruit; it broke in half, leaving me with 30 or so green papayas to get creative with. I found they are delicious roasted, fried, raw and sautéed, like in this dish. Each way of preparing them brings out a different quality of this versatile fruit. I used a very green papaya this time, it should be completely white on the inside and the seeds should be white as well. When cooked, the papaya softens just enough, and the texture becomes like a turnip, taking on the flavor of whatever you cook it in. If you don’t have green papaya, substitute anything starchy like winter squash, pumpkin or sweet potato.
This is an easy dish to prepare, and healthy. The key is to cook each veggie in the right order to keep them fresh and crunchy. Before preparing this dish, remove your tofu from its container, slice it and marinate it overnight. You will be surprised at how delicious and flavorful it will be. One more note: I used yellow curry powder in this dish (not authentic Thai, but easy), accented with some herbs. If you want to be more authentic, use Thai yellow curry paste.
Yield: Serves 4-6
Serve with white or brown rice, or rice noodles.
Remove tofu from the container and slice into 1 inch cubes. Add the tofu to a plastic zip lock bag long with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 2 tablespoons of lime juice and a pinch of chili flakes. Shake bag to distribute evenly and place into the refrigerator overnight, turning once. Before cooking, drain the marinade from the tofu and place on a paper towel to dry.
To make the curry, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and chili flakes and stir until fragrant but not browned. Add the onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, pepper, bay leaf and curry powder. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce,1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and brown sugar to the pan and stir to combine. Add the papaya (or substitute) to the pan and cook over medium heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
While the papaya is cooking, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add the tofu when the oil is hot and let brown, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce and cook, turning the cubes, until they are crusted and brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the Swiss chard to the curry and cook uncovered until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the bean sprouts, tofu cubes and lime juice and stir for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat. Remove the bay leaf and garnish with chopped cilantro or basil. Serve over rice or noodles.