I have been on a Indonesian food binge of late, inspired by Pierre of Little Hungry Heart and after a weekend of wanton indulgence in all things Indonesian (food my peeps....f-o-o-d) with my Indonesian (no less) husband not so very long ago, I still was not satisfied. Walking past my cookbook shelf a few days ago and catching sight of the cover of an Indonesian cookbook had me running to the market for the freshest, softest squares of beancurd I could find, and peanuts for a luscious and spicy sauce known as Pechal.
those red brown speckles on the beancurd are just chopped roasted nuts mixed with chilli flakes and brown sugar - a little lippy for my piccy
This sauce goes over bits of beancurd, hard cooked eggs, rice cakes, boiled potatoes, beansprouts, cucumber and prawn crackers for that gorgeous Indonesian salad known as Gado-Gado. It also pairs wonderfully with spicy roast chicken and rice and is enough of a multi-tasker to even serve as the dipping sauce for satay or sate, grilled skewers of spicy meat found everywhere in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Today's post is a vegan delight that will have peanut, beancurd and spice lovers howling at the moon! It has only four main ingredients, but is magnificently flavourful and dangerously addictive. I think the best vegetarian or vegan food is the kind that doesnt't pretend to be anything it's not. I never could abide mock meat or fish and this dish stands proud and tall and makes no apologies for its simplicity; it doesn't need to, it has charms aplenty. Gado-gado is Indonesian, Tahu Goreng which literally means "fried beancurd" is Malaysian, though the two share ingredients in common. Wither the origin, it's all goooooooood!!!
More news to share with you, dear readers and friends. Today I was officially welcomed onboard the Blogcritics community of writers with the publication of my very first article! I hope you will take a peek and find time to leave a comment. Here is the link to my (good natured) rant ;) Time and circumstance permitting, I will be a regular contributor to this online magazine and I look forward to your valued support! Enough with the intros and announcements, lets roll out the grub!
Prep 15 mins Cook 5 mins Serves 4
250 g (1/2 lb) unskinned peanuts (not unshelled) peanuts, thoroughly dry roasted or shallow fried in oil
2 - 3 cloves garlic, peel
4 bird's eye chillies, remove stalks
1 1/2 - 2 level Tbsp soft, dark brown sugar
1 1/3 level tsp salt (or to taste)
300 ml (1 1/2 cups) water
1/2 Tbsp tamarind pulp without seeds
Combine peanuts, garlic, chillies, sugar, salt and water in a blender and process to a thick and smooth paste. You should have something that is the consistency of very loose peanut butter.
Put paste into a small pot and add the tamarind paste. Heat mixture on the stove, stirring to prevent scorching, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Turn off heat and taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon but fall off easily in dollops. Cover and set aside.
4 large squares firm bean curd (Tau Kwa) each about 7.5 cm (3 in) square
250 g (1/2 lb) mung bean sprouts, remove dark skins from heads, top and tail if you wish, I don't
2 Japanese cucumbers or smallish English cucumbers, thickly sliced
Drain the beancurd squares on a double layer of kitchen paper. This is necessary to prevent sputtering when you fry them. Heat about 4 cm (1 1/2 in) light vegetable oil in a deep pan and when hot, carefully lower in the beancurd squares. When the bottom edges began to turn golden (about 2 minutes) carefully turn over squares to fry the other side.
Four minutes or so total frying time should do it. You want a thin golden crust with a still soft centre heated right through. Too thick a crust means the sauce will not penetrate and flavour the beancurd. Remove squares from oil and set aside on a plate to cool off while you blanch the sprouts.
Bring a small deep pot of water to the boil and very briefly blanch the sprouts. I would hardly even call it that. You want to basically dip the sprouts (in a noodle blanching basket) into the boiling water for about 8 seconds before removing and reviving them in cold water. This just takes the raw edge off but leaves them still firm and crunchy. Rinse until cool then drain thoroughly and set aside.
To serve : Each person gets one square of beancurd, cut into 16 even squares. Place some cucumber into a deep plate or shallow bowl. Top with some bean sprouts. Place the cut beancurd square on top and serve the sauce either in a small bowl on the side , to dip into, or generously spooned over the beancurd and veg. Serve immediately. For me, sometimes, one square isn't enough ;)
Tags: asian spicy vegetarian vegan beancurd "malaysian food" "singaporean food"
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