Notes: This Vietnamese dish was adapted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, by Mai Pham (Harper-Collins, NY, 2001).
1 package (12 to 16 oz.) water-packed firm tofu
2 stalks fresh lemon grass (each 10 to 12 in. long)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh hot chili such as Thai bird or serrano
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salad oil
2/3 cup fresh Thai or regular basil leaves
3 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
4 cups hot cooked rice
How to Make It
Rinse tofu, drain in a colander for about 5 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 3/4-inch cubes and lightly blot with more towels.
Rinse lemon grass. Cut off and discard tough tops and root ends; peel off and discard tough, green outer layers of stalks down to tender white portion of bulbs. Finely chop tender portions; you should have 4 to 7 tablespoons.
In a bowl, mix lemon grass, soy sauce, chili, sugar, turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gently stir in tofu. Let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat, stir onion, shallots, and garlic in oil until fragrant, about 1 minute; push to one side of pan. Add tofu mixture. Gently turn cubes occasionally and stir onion mixture until tofu is browned around the edges and onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir in basil leaves and half the peanuts. Add salt to taste. Pour into a serving dish. Garnish with remaining peanuts. Serve with hot cooked rice.