Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tofu with Red Peppers and Black Bean Paste

This recipe posed quite a few vegan problems, so let me cover those separately before I get to the cooking itself. The first snag is right in the name itself: black bean paste.

Whole Foods almost never fails me, but while they carried black bean sauce (in the Asian food section) and black bean dip (with the salsas), I intuited that neither of these was correct. I went home and did a Google search and found that my hunch was correct; black bean sauce is not a substitute for black bean paste. What's more, black bean sauce has "caramel color" in the ingredient list, without stating the source, so I figured it was wiser to stay away.

So I Googled further and found that Korean grocers will carry black bean paste, called chunjang. But the ingredient list for this (posted online) included caramel. Now I knew it definitely wasn't vegan, since caramel is a blend of essentially burnt sugar with butter or cream.

The best I could come up with, then, was one post saying that black bean paste was similar to red curry paste. Aha! Something already in my fridge, and bearing a certified vegan sticker to boot (from Thai Kitchen: Hence my apologies, because this recipe should be properly titled 'Tofu with Red Peppers and Red Curry Paste'.

The second problem was the sherry called for in the recipe. I searched for vegan sherries, since (as with all sherry, wine, beer) although the product itself is vegan, the filtration process is not necessarily so. A Google search did turn up one vegan brand, but I couldn't track it down at my local liquor store. I did however, find Fino en Rama sherry which is unfiltered, I repeat unfiltered. I'm taking that as license to count it as vegan, but if you're even more hardcore than I am, I cannot help you. I would recommend, in that case, using a white wine that you know is vegan.

Phew! So all those logistics aside, let's cook!

Cut a 12.3-oz package of extra firm tofu into four, lengthwise slices. Lay flat on several layers of paper towels, and cover with additional layers of paper towel. Let stand for half an hour, pressing down occasionally. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside.

Heat two teaspoons grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon minced garlic, one teaspoon ground ginger (or one tablespoon if you prefer to use fresh ginger), and 4 dried hot chiles (I chose chipotles - not quite as deadly as the other option in the store, the habanero). Saute for 3o seconds. Add two cups thinly sliced red bell pepper and saute three minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tofu cubes, along with two tablespoons sherry. Saute another three minutes. Add 1/3 cup chopped green onions and saute 30 seconds.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon black bean paste (in this case, my red curry paste), and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.

Four, one-cup servings of 190 calories each.

There are a couple things about this recipe that perplexed me. The first is that the recipe said to cut "each block" of tofu in half lengthwise, which made me wonder if perhaps it called for two 12.3 oz packages, not one. Indeed, although the yield for the recipe was supposed to be 4 cups, mine measured out about 1 cup short. I leave it to you to make the call of whether to use one package or two.

The second issue that worried me is those dried hot chiles. Were they meant to be chopped?? Removed before eating?? The recipe never said. So here goes... if I post tomorrow night, you know I didn't have a four-alarm fire...

tofu $1.79
dried chiles $2.69
red bell pepper $2.69
sherry $10.00
green onion $0.99

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance