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Meera Sodha’s East reveals the best use for tofu you’ve ever seen

Left: Cover of Meera Sodha's cookbook, East; Right: Silken tofu with chili oil and pine nuts in a shallow bowl
Photo: David Loftus

If you’re looking for a plant-based dish that’s exciting, intensely flavorful, and literally takes minutes to make, Meera Sodha’s got you covered. This recipe for soft silken tofu doused with crunchy pine nuts, aromatic scallions, and fiery chile oil comes from East, the new cookbook by Sodha, vegan food columnist for The Guardian and social media superstar. After writing two popular volumes on Indian cooking, Sodha turned her eye to the multitude of vegetarian dishes and vibrant flavors found throughout other parts of the continent, drawing inspiration from East Asian and South East Asian home cooks and gourmet chefs.

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Some of the book’s 120 recipes might be “new-to-you,” but Sodha’s recipes are made with ingredients that are readily available at supermarkets across the United States. The dishes found in East are approachable, unfussy, and, when it comes to flavor, utterly explosive.


Silken Tofu With Pine Nuts And Pickled Chiles

Excerpted from EAST by Meera Sodha. Copyright © 2020 by Meera Sodha. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books.

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Silken tofu is so named because it is passed through silk and is the most delicate of all the tofus both in flavor and texture. This recipe is loosely based on a memorable encounter I had with a silken tofu dish at a restaurant called My Neighbours the Dumplings in east London. The fragility of the tofu contrasted wonderfully with a brute of a dressing: hot and sour with pickled chiles, salty with soy, and crunchy with toasted pine nuts.

Note: Buy fresh silken tofu if you can, but if you can only find shelf-stable tofu, make sure you cut carefully along the edges of the carton and open the pack gently so as not to break it up. Pickled chiles can be bought in jars from most supermarkets. Yours may be green, rather than red as in the picture.

Serves 4 as a starter

  • 14 oz. silken tofu
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1½ Tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ Tbsp. agave syrup
  • ½ Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 green onions, green part only, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 2 pickled chile peppers, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup finely sliced cilantro

Remove the tofu from its packaging, put on a plate, and leave for 10 minutes or so, then tip the water away. Place the drained tofu on a nice serving plate with a lip, as things are about to get saucy.

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In a medium-sized bowl, combine the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, agave syrup, and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Whisk with a fork to mix.

Put the canola oil into a pan over a high heat and, when hot, add the green onions, pine nuts, and pickled chile peppers. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring every now and then, being very careful not to burn the mixture.

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Very carefully (as it may spit), tip the hot pine nuts into the sesame oil mixture along with the cilantro. Mix well, then pour over the tofu and serve.

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DISCUSSION

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Recipe bookmarked, though I’ll be subbing chopped walnuts for pine nuts after a nasty bout of pine mouth a few years ago has left me wary of those suckers. I’ve been looking for something to do with silken tofu, which I am not a fan of but my girlfriend wants to get into, and this sounds like a good gateway.