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Tofu in tamarind sauce (Assam tofu)

Dishes cooked with tamarind are termed "Assam" in Malay cuisine, different from the state of Assam in India, and include a variety of dishes from the famed laksa to other meat and vegetable dishes. One of the distinguishing factors, other than the addition of tamarind, is the lack of coconut milk in these dishes giving lighter broth-like curries.

This is a quick and lovely dish that takes but a few minutes to make. The base is aromatic and bold with a balance of spice, sweet and sour. the magic is in the balance of the three flavours without one of them dominating. The curry needs to be bold to compensate for the plain tofu. This dish is a treat and one that will disappear fast on the table.

Carol Selva Rajah was a celebrity chef, food writer, cookbook author and TV personality living in Sydney, Australia. She has written 10 books and was the first woman chef to be invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard Foundation in New York. This book specializes in Malay cuisine it=n all its diversity and grandeur. The recipes are very authentic and like this one turn out beautifully. This book is a wonderful introduction to this cuisine and the culture and belongs on your shelf.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


1 pack of soft tofu

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons oil5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 shallots, or 1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind extract

1 cup water

2 tablespoons palm sugar

Salt, to taste

3-4 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 onion, thinly sliced and fried till golden

Note: If you do not have sweet chilli sauce, use sambal oelek plus a 1/2-1 tablespoon of palm sugar.

heat the oil in a pot and add the garlic and onions. Sautè on medium heat till the onions are lightly golden.

Add the chilli sauce, tamarind and cook for 1 minute. Add the water, sugar and salt and simmer for 10 minutes. taste for salt, spice and tartness. there should be a balance between all of them.

When ready to serve, slide the block of tofu out, carefully, onto a frying pan with oil. Fry on high for 2-3 minutes. carefully flip the tofu block without breaking it and fry for an additional 3 minutes. carefully slide the block out of the pan onto a shallow plate. heat the gravy and spoon around the block. Garnish with the fried onions and scallions. Serve immediately.

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