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Meatless Monday: Spicy Indian tofu curry

Do something different for dinner with tofu curry. Get adventurous with authentic Indian spices like garam masala and Asafetida, and learn to swap the curry powder for a homemade curry paste.

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chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

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Blue Kitchen

Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.

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Prepare the tofu. Cut the tofu block crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, then cut those into bite-sized pieces; I cut mine into thirds. Gently lay them in a single layer on a plate covered with a double layer of paper towels. Gently press another double layer of paper towels on top of the tofu (you’ll notice I use the word gently a lot in discussing handling the tofu – it’s fragile). This will remove a lot of the moisture in the tofu and make it easier to sauté. Let the tofu drain for at least 15 minutes.

Season the tofu pieces on both sides with 1 teaspoon of garam masala. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium flame for at least 90 seconds. Sauté the tofu in batches – overcrowding the pan will make it difficult to handle without breaking – gently turning with a spatula and a wooden spoon occasionally until browned on the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Prepare the curry. While the tofu is draining, place the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato and chiles in a food processor bowl. Process into a smooth, slightly watery paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Add yogurt, salt, remaining 2 teaspoons of garam masala and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine.

When tofu has been sautéed, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy pot (I used a Dutch oven) over medium flame. Add asafetida, cumin seeds, turmeric, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add yogurt mixture and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.

Remove cinnamon stick and cardamom pods (and cloves, if you can find them – if not, apologize in advance). Add tofu to the pot, stirring (yes, gently) to coat with sauce. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Serve. There are a couple of options. We treated this as a main course, and I plated individual servings over cooked rice, garnishing with cilantro. It can also be passed around as one dish in a larger meal; Place it in a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro. It can be passed around the table with rice and other dishes.

Kitchen Notes

Spices, Indian and otherwise. The list of spices for this recipe is impressive, I’ll admit. But most should be fairly easily found either in supermarkets or specialty shops. Garam masala is a ground spice blend used in North Indian cooking. If you can’t track it down, you’ll find a recipe for a simplified version here. Asafetida is unpromisingly also known as devil’s dung or stinking gum. Raw, it has an unpleasant odor, but when cooked into food, it adds a delicious mild onion/garlic flavor – it’s featured in lots of Indian cooking. If you can’t find it, this dish already has plenty of onion and garlic in it.

Go vegan with soy yogurt. Anupy’s original recipe calls for soy yogurt. I used regular plain yogurt instead for a vegetarian but non-vegan version. Either works just fine.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Creamy Mac and Cheese with Tarragon

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