dad's deviled tofu
once upon a time this was my dad’s deviled chicken recipe. but my family and i became vegetarian at roughly the same time, by sheer coincidence actually, and it evolved into a “deviled soy meat” recipe. and although he remains a great cook, my dad doesn’t cook quite as much as when he was making his meaty specialties, like black pepper king fish, chili roasted lamb, and goat curry. i wish he would adapt all those recipes that guests raved about over dinner, and that i’ve been craving for about, oh, 7 years now. this is a good start.

deviled tofu mise en place

my family has always refered to this technique as “deviled”, and with this much cayenne pepper, it qualifies. but with tomato, onions and pepper it could be compared to some creole recipes, and with the addition of the other spices it definitely resembles many other recipes my family makes, which is to say, there are a lot of sri lankan ingredients here. wondering if that was just because my dad was used to using them when cooking, i asked if we really needed to include rampe (screw pine leaves), for instance. my dad replied “oh yes! that’s what gives it the aroma!”… the finished flavour is exactly that of the delicious deviled chicken burned into my memory, that i devoured one night when i was about seven at the home of an indian woman my mom was friends with. i assume similar spices were used, so perhaps this resembles deviled recipes cooked in the homes of many south-east asians? regardless, it’s fantastic.

and about the tofu; my dad went from making this with chicken, to making this with dried soy meat. but after using puffed fried tofu, my family all agreed this was the way to go. the sauce permeates this tofu much better. (it’s available at chinese and other east-asian grocers, and pictured below, sliced.)

sliced fried tofu balls

 

dad and mom prepping ingredients for dad's deviled tofu

(my dad and mom prepping the ingredients for dad’s deviled tofu) 

i’ll keep pushing my dad to give me more of his recipes and to keep cooking. in the meantime, i hope you’ll try this one. feel free to adapt it if you don’t have every ingredient on this list, and if you would rather, you know, use chicken.

dad’s deviled tofu

*how much cayenne pepper you use is up to you. my dad and i use a whole tablespoon here because we don’t mind enjoy food so spicy our seasoned mouths burn and our scalp tingles. half of that would qualify the dish as spicy. i have to warn you but really, i want to encourage you.

140g (about 5 oz) fried tofu pieces, quartered
2 small onions, sliced into 1/2-inch rings
2 roma tomatoes, quartered and thinly sliced
10 curry leaves
1 3-inch piece of rampe (screw pine leaves)
2 cardamom pods
1 piece of cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and slivered
1/4 tsp – 1 tbs cayenne pepper*
1 tsp paprika
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 c water
2 tbs vegetable or peanut oil

heat a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. add 1 tbs of oil, allow it to get hot. add the tofu and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the pieces start to brown slightly. remove from wok and set aside. return the wok to heat and add 1 tbs of oil. when the oil is hot, add curry leaves, rampe, cardamom and cinnamon and stir-fry for 30 seconds. then add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. add the cayenne, paprika, sugar, salt and pepper, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. then add the the tomatoes, stir and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. add the onions and water, stir and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not overcook the onions). add the tofu back to the pan, stir and cook for 2 minutes. remove cardamom, cinnamon and rampe, and serve hot.

 makes 6-8 servings.