Tofu with Chilli Tamarind Dipping sauce

Serves 2

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Tofu is a versatile source of vegetarian protein. It’s a fantastic wobbly but firm, ghostly white “cheese” (it’ a bean curd) made from coagulated soya milk and nothing new to us here in South Africa.

But what tofu has in character, it lacks in taste. Luckily, this can easily be remedied either by adding tofu to a flavourful broth or stir-fry, or serving it with a sauce on the side. Tofu is sponge-like, in it’s ability to soak up flavour and marinating for at least an hour before preparing is also a good option.

However, you must know, that even when it has been briskly paper towel-dried, tofu in oil will splutter! If soaked in a marinade, be sure to have gloves and goggles at the ready. Not an issue for those used to deep frying, or frying foods in general, but an issue for moi.

There are two types: silken and regular. This recipe would be best made using the regular tofu that come in plastic packages, refrigerated. I used the silken variety, that come in aseptic boxes (usually found in the grocery isle where theThai sauces and noodles are stored), which as the name indicates, is more delicate. And a lot harder to handle in this recipe.

To make life a lot easier, get the firm regular variety, and if you have the patience for it, here is the proper method to drain or “press” tofu.

This recipe is based on the one by Marina Filippelli, Wok Recipes.


200g firm tofu (regular or silken), drained
6-7 fine green beans, chopped into 1cm pieces
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
For the dipping sauce
3/4 strands coriander (cilantro)
½ small red chilli
2cm ginger, chopped
2 salad onions or ½ shallot
2 tsp tamarind paste
½ lime, juice squeezed
1 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
1/2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt (optional)


Blend all the sauce ingredients together. Check for seasoning and set aside.

Cut drained tofu into blocks, the size of your preference. I got roughly 18 little blocks out of my 200g tofu brick. Admittedly some did crumble and fall apart.

In a non-stick pan, heat oil and brown tofu on all sides. Watch out for splutterings! I didn’t have the patience to brown all sides equally and perfectly: supper needed to be served. But, please do if you have the time.

Remove tofu and dab with paper towels, to remove excess oil.

*A more traditional method would be to heat ½ a cup of ground nut oil (or more) in a wok and fry the tofu till puffy and brown*

Fry the beans in the same pan, adding a few teaspoons of groundnut oil, for a minute or less. I’d say 30 seconds would give you a greener, crisper little bean than mine.

You could sprinkle with dry roasted peanuts and serve with jasmine rice.

Enjoy the tofu with the dipping sauce, which is zingy and I think is just the right balance of tangy, sweet, salty and hot.

*You could also marinate the tofu cubes in the dipping sauce for an hour and then fry *

Love to hear your thoughts!

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