Originally posted 12/1/14
At my cooking job what pleases is healthier takes on comfort food. For me there is no greater comfort than good Thai food with its exquisite playfulness of sweet, salty, pungent, sour, bitter, hot tastes. I love cooking Thai food because it's great in hot and cold weather, is packed with flavor, and can be packed with veggies too. This dish, Tofu Spices, is dear to my heart. It recalls memories of friends gathered in Brooklyn, relaxing, sharing a varied Thai take out spread. Tofu spices was always on our menu and the place around the corner made it so well. I don't know about your experience fellow New Yorkers, but I think as a city we've peaked on Thai food. Five and ten years ago Thai food was excellent and being cooked by Thai people. There are still some gems, but even places that were renowned years ago have not been able to keep the same standard, and I'm seeing fewer Thai people in those Thai kitchens. First Chinese food, then Thai, now what New York? If I'm wrong and we have a new wave of Thai excellence, my heart and tongue will sing together. If not though, I feel even more inspired to cook Thai food myself. And that brings me back to Tofu Spices. I'm not sure why it's called Tofu Spices when it is made with seitan instead of tofu, but after tasting this dish that inconsistency is easy to forgive. With a huge block of seitan in the freezer at work and unwilling to make yet another seitan chili, I was excited when I decided to give this one a go. To complement the Tofu Spices I made rice, Thai chicken with basil, and a vegetable red curry. But you could simplify and eat it on its own or with rice or another whole grain, or pair it with a salad. It's great with crunchier lettuces like romaine or iceberg. I've only made it once so consider this a starting ground for your favorite adaptations. I didn't want to wait to share it with you. Feel free to send me your suggestions.
Serves 6-8 as a main course. Feel free to halve the recipe to make side dish portions.
- 2.5 pounds seitan, broken up into 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (I would try it with either a refined coconut oil or peanut oil, or an even mix of those two. The coconut flavor competed with the other flavors more than in the traditional dish, but from a health perspective I like coconut oil, and with peanut oil you can use a higher heat safely and scheive a crispier outside texture on the seitan.)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 small-medium red onions, halved and sliced into half rings
- 4 plum tomatoes, halved and sliced 1/4 -inch thick
- Thai roasted red chili paste, 1 4 oz jar (Yes, sometimes I take short-cuts. Had I had the time, I would have used a recipe like this one: http://www.thaitable.com/thai/recipe/roasted-chili-paste. For vegans and strict vegetarians, use one that substitutes mushrooms for the fish like this one: http://inquiringchef.com/2011/02/17/nam-prik-pao-thai-chili-paste/.)
- 1 large mango, peeled, medium diced
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed, and chopped coarsely
- 3 large limes, juiced
- 2 large oranges, juiced
- tamari, generous amount
- 1-2 carrots, grated for garnish, optional
- Get all of your ingredients ready.
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron pan or wok. Add seitan and garlic and fry on medium high heat until the seitan is crispy and darker in color on the outside.
- Turn the heat to low, add the chili paste, onions and tomatoes. Stir to mix, then turn off the heat.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, adjusting tamari to taste.
- Serve warm over rice or cool to room temperature to pair with salad. Garnish with carrots if using.