First time I made tofu in satay sauce, it was a disaster. The satay was fine, with the required balance of heat, peanut saltiness and lemon zest, but the tofu was a whole different kettle of fish. Or fungus, or whatever the fuck it is.
My mistake was not coating the individual pieces of tofu in cornflour, a fact which kind of pisses me off because cornflour is one of those ingredients that I know sits unregarded at the back of most cupboards for years. I had vowed never to ask anyone to use those kinds of ingredients (also included: gelatine, star anise and preserved lemons. The lemons I’m not too bothered about because they taste exactly like petrol smells anyway), but in this case it’s genuinely necessary so don’t miss it out.
Without the cornflour, the tofu promptly lost its shape. I was also left with a patina of blackened tofu stuck to the bottom of the pan and poisoning the whole dish. I ended up with a sloppy, gloopy mess that tasted quite good but had a fairly sickening texture. Not good enough. With it, the tofu stays in perfect cubes, with a lovely slightly crispy outer layer.
After a bit of messing about with limes and lemons and having the crunchy vs. smooth peanut butter discussion (in my head. I can’t work out if that’s better or worse), the satay turned out as everything I had hoped for. Peanut sauce is a dish carrying much sentimental attachment for me. My dad used to make it in the peanut butter jar to be poured over soft little oysters of chicken or as a dipping sauce for the healthy stuff. I don’t know why he stopped. Maybe he assumed a newfound maturity of taste. He was wrong.
The sauce works equally well with meat, muscly manly fish (like tuna steaks) or substantial veggies like aubergine or courgette. It’s also an excellent dip for tempura, which I wrote a recipe for a while back before the draft got deleted by WordPress and I formed a powerful mental block over it. I’ll get round to doing it again sometime.
I’m going to cook like this and if you don’t get out of the way it’s your own fault.
Tofu with Satay Sauce
For the tofu:
- A block of firm tofu, I think about 400g, cubed to the size of dice or lego. When I say firm, it’s firm like a good buttock – there’s still a nice bit of squidge.
- A nice little mound of cornflour.
- Hot chilli powder.
- One garlic clove, very finely chopped (or garlic granules)
For the satay sauce:
- One great big dollop of crunchy peanut butter. I just got as much as I could on a tablespoon, which was about a third of one of the small jars.
- Two green chillis, de-seeded and finely chopped.
- A little ginger, about 2cm, finely chopped.
- One white onion, or two shallots, finely chopped.
- Two garlic cloves, finely chopped.
- Coconut milk.
- The juice of one lime.
- Dark soy sauce, two or three big glugs.
- Sesame oil (optional. A bit wanky, but great)
Take a frying pan with a bit of depth or a wok and heat a big glug of sesame oil (or just standard oil if you don’t have the sesame stuff) over a very low heat. As it starts to shimmer and shift a bit, add the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger. Slowly fry, without colouring, until everything’s soft and the smell is making both your eyes and your mouth water.
Meanwhile, mix the cornflour, salt, pepper, a good big pinch of hot chilli powder and the garlic together in a bowl. Heat an inch of oil, nothing fancy, in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Coat each cube of tofu in the cornflour mix and add to the empty pan. Keep an eye on them whilst finishing off the satay, with the occasional stir to ensure the tofu isn’t sticking. It’s done when the cubes have a crispy brown outer layer.
Turn up the heat on the first pan and stir in the peanut butter, the lime juice and the dark soy sauce. When the liquids have combined, add a little bit of coconut milk at a time until you have an easily poured sauce. Taste and adjust the levels of peanut, lime, soy and seasoning to taste (you can even add a little extra chilli powder if you fancy it). Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes before pouring over your crispy edged tofu.
Pretty much the only rule for drinking wine with Asian food is to stick with white. I like the wine to be a refreshing backdrop, so a cheapish Sauvignon Blanc does the trick. Either that or lager.