Decadent-tasting peanut sauce adds flavor and excitement to baked tofu and steamed vegetables in this low-fat version of a classic Thai restaurant dish.
We were in Phoenix our last night in Arizona and really should have eaten at Green. We’d planned to, actually, but after D and I made the executive decision to eat lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant, E complained that we never let her decide where to eat. So, reluctantly–and playing up Green’s great qualities–I presented the options to her, gathered from the very helpful VegGuide site, and she surprised us by choosing Thai Basil.
We can’t get good Thai food in Jackson–the one supposedly Thai restaurant uses “tofu” (and probably vegetables) out of a can–so we all look forward to eating at Thai restaurants on vacation. We specify that we want our meals cooked vegetarian, with no fish sauce. Thai Basil came highly recommended for its vegan options, and we were pleased with the extensive menu and quick service.
The food, for the most part, wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good, either. E’s Pad Thai was tasty, but the noodles were almost too tough to chew through, and my Massamun Curry (the dish I almost always order) was so bland that it was virtually tasteless.
The only dish that was really interesting was the one D ordered, named (and I’m relying on memory here) something like Rama’s Favorite: fried tofu on a bed of vegetables covered in peanut sauce. Though it was super-sweet and not spicy at all, it had a good flavor and was the dish we all chose as our favorite.
Like food lovers do, we discussed the dish in detail afterward, and D and I both agreed that it could be made much more delicious if it were less sweet, more spicy, and not swimming in oil. I decided to try my hand at recreating it (or rather improving it) while the memory was still fresh in my mind, so a couple of nights ago, I put this dish together.
I’m happy to report that both D and I liked it much better than the restaurant’s version (E was away, so we were able to let loose with the chili sauce). It’s definitely not fat-free, but it’s probably the lowest-fat version of Thai peanut sauce that you’ll find, so save it for special occasions; it’s definitely on the “Good Enough to Serve to Guests” list!
Tofu and Vegetables with Lower-Fat Thai Peanut Sauce
- 14 ounces extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (gluten-free version, if necessary)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable broth
- 2 carrots
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 pound broccoli
- 12 basil leaves (or to taste)
- 4 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter (see notes below)
- 1/2-3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup soymilk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract (or use lite coconut milk instead of soymilk & extract)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce (start with less and add more as needed)
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Cut the tofu into about 8 slices; then cut each slice into 4 triangles. Combine about 1 tablespoon soy sauce with 1 tablespoon vegetable broth, dip the tofu in it, coating all sides with marinade, and allow to soak while you preheat the oven to 400F. When the oven is hot, put the tofu triangles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat and bake for 15 minutes; turn the tofu over and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
- While the tofu is baking, prepare the vegetables and sauce. Slice the carrots on the diagonal, halve the zucchini lengthwise and cut into half-moons. Chop the broccoli into medium-sized florets. (Other vegetables may be used; aim for about 2-3 pounds total.) Place the vegetables into a large steamer and steam until tender-crisp. (Actually, stop just a little before you think they’re done; they will continue to cook in the residual heat.) During the last minute of steaming, toss the basil leaves on top of the vegetables and steam just long enough to wilt.
- To make the sauce, heat the peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Add the soymilk, coconut extract, soy sauce, chili sauce, and agave nectar, and heat until bubbly. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little more vegetable broth. Add the lime juice just before removing from the heat and serving.
- To assemble, place 1/4 of the vegetables on each plate. Top with 1/4 of the tofu and drizzle with 1/4 of the sauce. Garnish with fresh Thai basil if desired.
Reduce the fat and sodium by using reduced-fat tofu, low-sodium soy sauce, and fat-free soy milk. For a much lower-fat dish, try replacing the peanut butter with peanut butter flour and water.
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