A Thai inspired dish cooked Indian style that bursts with color, texture, and flavor.
By Shushi Mittal
“Born in India, plated in Thailand
This dish of vision, is anything but bland,
With spices few, but herbs fresh in season
The look itself will make you lose all reason!
Healthy like hell, with a natural crisp
Chili & spices, do that tingle on your lips,
Roll em up, and sink your teeth
This guilt-free dinner can stand up to meat!”
Lettuce eat, shall we?
For years I have been fascinated by Thai cooking. It’s quick, fresh and oh-so flavorful. I have tried a bit myself, but some things are best left to the experts – and I do like my comfort take out now & then. But experimenting…now that’s right up my alley.
I have always enjoyed the Thai salads & meat stir fry served on crisp lettuce leaves, and wondered if there was any way to ‘Indianize’ it. So on a recent gloomy grey rainy day, I decided I wanted to test a recipe that’s been haunting me for a while. Ground something, anything served on lettuce cups. We were on a veggie month so I grabbed me some tofu, and bunch of vegetables, and got chopping – without quite knowing the final direction I was going in!
But happiness always lies in surprises. The result? This intensely flavorful Tofu Basil Keema, with a mix of basil, bay leaves and peppers, cooked in a traditional Indian style curry. It not only worked extremely well with the leaves, but would also be dee-licious on rice or quinoa!
Spicy Tofu and Basil KeemaShushi Mittal
- 350 g 14 oz or 1.5 cups medium soft tofu, crumbled (it absorbs flavors way better)
- 2 small plum tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 1- inch knobs of ginger
- 4 green chilies more if you want to turn up the heat!
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- 1/2 green pepper cut into small cubes
- 1/2 red pepper cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 fried bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 tablespoons coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 6 tablespoons olive oil more the better, but let’s keep it healthy shall we!
- Salt to taste
- Juice of half a lemon
- Lettuce leaves to serve washed and soaked in cold water (to retain their crisp)
- In a mixer, blend the tomatoes, chilies, garlic & ginger to a smooth paste. Use very little water if needed. Keep aside
- Heat oil in a non stick pan. Add the cumin seeds and cook for a few minutes till they begin to splutter. Stir in the onions and bay leaf, adding a little salt (to help them sweat), and cook till the onions start to brown. Add the red & green peppers with the basil and all the dry spices. Mix well and stir for a minute. Now add in the crumbled tofu. Cook without cover on a medium-high flame, till most of the liquid has been absorbed. Finally stir in the blended tomato paste, adjust salt, and let it simmer covered on medium-low flame for around 15-20 minutes. This will not only ensure the tomatoes are fully cooked, but also really infuse the tofu with the spices. Once the raw taste of tomatoes has disappeared, open cover, turn heat to high and continue to cook till any excess liquid has been absorbed, and oil begins to separate (or starts to crisp the bottom of the tofu). Once done, remove from heat, sprinkle lemon juice and some chopped basil and bring to room temperature.
- When ready to serve, pat dry the lettuce leaves and add 2 generous spoonfuls on each leaf. Top with more basil & chili, nuts or bhujia (for a crunch) and eat fresh!
Shuchi cooks with the heart of a poet. Banker turned chef, she runs the 29. Private Kitchen in NYC focusing on social tasting events, dining experiences and small-scale private events. Using simple & wholesome ingredients, she likes to re-invent homemade Indian flavors into modern tapas & small plates. Her dream? To cook, feed, write, and eventually open her own communal dining cafe - with a published recipe book on the stands.