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Spicy Tofu With Lemon Grass and Chiles

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“Light, delicious way to use fresh lemon grass from your garden or market. From Deborah M. Schneider, executive chef, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.”

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 lb chinese-style tofu, soft or firm (see note)
  • 13 cup canola oil or 13 cup peanut oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 stalks very fresh lemongrass, white part finely minced to a paste,with
  • 12 teaspoon salt (about 1/3 cup, see note)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 -3 tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste (hot red chile paste, see note)
  • shredded lettuce
  • white rice


  1. Drain the tofu and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.
  2. Pat as dry as possible with paper towels.
  3. In a heavy wok or large saute pan, heat the oil until it reaches medium-hot, but do not allow to smoke.
  4. Toss dried tofu cubes with cornstarch to coat lightly, and shake off excess in a sieve or colander.
  5. Set carefully in the hot oil (don't crowd; cook in batches if necessary) and cook until lightly brown and crisp on all sides.
  6. Soft tofu won't get as crisp as firm.
  7. Remove browned cubes from the pan, drain on paper towels and keep warm.
  8. Pour off all the oil but 3 tablespoons and set the pan over medium-high heat.
  9. Return the tofu to the pan and toss with the sugar; saute briefly until the sugar begins to melt.
  10. Add the lemon grass and garlic, and cook, tossing, until the lemon grass is fragrant.
  11. Add the sambal oelek paste and cook, tossing, until the red sauce starts to turn brown.
  12. Using 1 tablespoon makes the dish mildly spicy, 2 tablespoons makes it medium spicy, and 3 tablespoons makes it downright hot.
  13. Line a platter with shredded lettuce and spoon the cooked tofu over the lettuce.
  14. Serve with steamed white rice on the side.
  15. Makes 4 entree servings.
  16. Notes: Soft tofu is a little trickier to handle but gives a better finished texture.
  17. Firm tofu will stay quite hard; do not use extrafirm tofu.
  18. Lemon grass is available in the produce section of Asian markets and some supermarkets.
  19. Sambal oelek paste is available at Asian markets or in the Asian section of supermarkets.

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