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Fresh Herb and Tofu Curry

Photo: Annabelle Breakey
Total time 50 mins
Yield Serves 4
Santa Cruz, California, cookbook writer and cooking teacher Andrea Nguyen based this fragrant, creamy coconut-milk curry on one from James Syhabout's Hawker Fare, in Oakland. Use asparagus or green beans instead of bok choy if you like, and serve it with steamed jasmine rice—or a warm baguette.


  • 14 to 16 oz. firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 6 to 8 fresh curry leaves (optional)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, preferably Madras
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced canned bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 tsp. packed shaved light palm sugar* or light brown sugar
  • 4 or 5 small heads baby bok choy (Shanghai bok choy), cut crosswise into 1-in. pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as mint, cilantro, Thai basil, or Vietnamese coriander (rau ram)

Nutrition Information

  • calories 406
  • caloriesfromfat 76 %
  • protein 15 g
  • fat 34 g
  • satfat 19 g
  • carbohydrate 16 g
  • fiber 3.2 g
  • sodium 324 mg
  • cholesterol 0.0 mg

How to Make It

  1. Cut tofu into 16 rectangles shaped like husky dominoes (each about 1 in. wide, 1 1/2 in. long, and 1 in. thick). Put tofu in a wide, shallow bowl. Mix 1 tsp. salt with 2 cups very hot or just-boiled water and pour over tofu to just cover. Let sit 15 minutes. Transfer tofu to a double layer of paper towels set on a plate and let drain 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Fry shallots, stirring occasionally, until light golden, 9 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and curry leaves and fry 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until light and crisp. Add curry powder, remove from heat, and stir to aromatize spices. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer seasonings to a bowl, leaving most of fragrant oil in pan.

  3. Blot tofu dry. Add more oil to pan, if needed, to film bottom and heat to medium-high. Fry tofu, turning once, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes (it won't be crisp).

  4. Lower heat slightly and return all but 1 tbsp. shallot mixture to pan. Add coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and palm sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add bok choy and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently stir in fish sauce.

  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with herbs and rest of shallots. Serve with rice.

  6. *Find curry leaves at Indian markets. Palm sugar—a dark unrefined sugar made from palm-tree sap or sugarcane juice—has a musky, slightly molasses-like flavor. It usually comes in hard discs; slice off shavings with a sharp knife before measuring. Find it at well-stocked grocery stores and Asian or Latino markets (in Indian markets, it's called jaggery, and in Latino markets, piloncillo).