Members' Recipes Archive

March 2003
Tasty Tofu: Crisp Spicy Tofu with a Tartare Sauce
Rose Elliot

Tasty Tofu: Crisp Spicy Tofu with a Tartare Sauce

By: Rose Elliot

Serves: 2

As a Westerner, I hesitate to write about tofu when our Guild includes such eminent and celebrated Asian authors… My own qualification is that I adore the stuff and eat it often. As a vegetarian, I find it a wonderful source of protein, low in fat and carbohydrate, and of course now it’s been shown to have so many health benefits, that’s another incentive to eat it. But actually I’ve always loved it, even in the 1970s when, not living anywhere near an Asian shop, I used to make it at home using soya beans and lemon juice: lots of soaking, grinding and sieving involved.
Fortunately these days there’s plenty of it around, though as with any ingredient, success begins with choosing the right quality. Fresh (vacuum-packed, in water), medium-firm tofu is the type I find most useful and versatile and my favourite is made by Dragonfly. It’s delicate and almost wobbly without being too soft, so it’s a good multi-purpose tofu. Proper health shops and organic places usually stock it or will do so if prompted. Other makes which I’ve found reliable - that is, the tofu is delicate and light - are Clear Spot and Clean Bean, from the same kind of outlets.
Tofu addicts like me will eat a really good tofu straight from the pack - just drained, sliced and sprinkled with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few drops of green unfiltered olive oil; or drizzled with soy sauce, umeboshi vinegar or a mixture of soy sauce, mirin (or a touch of honey) and a dash of rice vinegar, maybe topped with some furls of pink pickled ginger. Or with some Dijon mustard (or wasabi if you’re really getting into Oriental mode) spread on it. Or some pesto and sliced cherry tomatoes, or black olive pate for a bit of east-meets-west.
But, I digress… For the non-converted, I’ve had the most success by first pumping up the flavour with spicy pastes or marinades (soy sauce, fresh grated ginger and crushed garlic) then dusting it with flour and frying it so that the outside is crisp, as in the recipe below. The Tofu and Fresh Herb Dip is also popular and one of those dishes about which people say ‘mmmm, this is good: what is it?’
I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes. They are adapted from recipes which will appear in Fast, Fresh and Fabulous, Rose Elliot’s New Vegetarian Cookbook, to be published by BBC Books in autumn 2003.

Crisp spicy tofu with a tartare sauce

Tofu is bland, got no flavour, you say? Well, try this recipe in which thin slices of tofu are spread with Sambal Oelek, tossed in chickpea flour, cornflour or arrowroot, then grilled or fried until crisp. I love these with the vegan tartare sauce given here, and some lightly-cooked broccoli. Sambal Oelek is a spicy Indonesian hot pepper sauce which you ought to be able to get at any supermarket, but - for vegetarians - check the label carefully and get one which doesn’t contain fish paste. If you can't find Sambal Oelek, you could try using a mild curry paste, a little harissa or even, for a different flavour, some pesto, instead.


250g (9oz) tofu
4-6 tsp Sambal Oelek
2-3 tablespoons chick pea (gram) flour, cornflour or arrowroot
Oil for shallow-frying or grilling

For the tartare sauce
5 tablespoons soya milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200ml (7fl oz) light olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped capers, optional
1 tablespoon chopped gherkins, optional


1. First make the sauce. Put the soya milk into a blender or food processor along with lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic and a seasoning of salt and pepper, and blend briefly. Then drizzle the oil through the lid while continuing to process, a bit like making mayonnaise, but you don’t need to be so careful with this. When all the oil is in, and it’s thick, transfer to a bowl and serve as it is, or stir in the capers and gherkins. Set aside.

2. Drain the tofu but don’t pat dry. Cut it into slices about 5mm (1/4in) thick. Spread some Sambal Oelek quite generously over all the cut surfaces then dip the pieces into chick pea flour, cornflour or arrowroot, patting it in a bit to make sure it sticks.

3. To cook, put the pieces onto an oiled grill pan or baking sheet and turn them immediately, so that they’re lightly oiled on top, then grill until golden and crisp on top - about 4 minutes - then turn them and grill the second side as necessary. Alternatively, shallow-fry in a little hot oil until crisp and golden brown, then drain on kitchen paper. Serve with the sauce.

© Recipe copyright 2003 Rose Elliot


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