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)
How to Make It
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.
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.
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).
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.
Transfer to a serving bowl and top with herbs and rest of shallots. Serve with rice.
*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).