Since I started to eat less meat, I feel like I'm on a constant search for good vegetarian meals. I need to find a suitable protein to satisfy my hunger yet still deliver the savoriness that meat provides. For Asian food, tofu is my go-to for the main dish. Tofu has almost no flavor making it a blank canvas. With a great sauce, you can transform this soybean into something spectacular like this chili basil tofu stir fry. The flavors are so great that you'll forget you're having a vegetarian meal! Oh, and did I mention? It's incredibly easy to make!
Chili Basil Tofu Stir Fry
- 14 ounces firm tofu
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon oil divided
- ½ red bell pepper chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Thai chili minced
- ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ cup fresh Thai basil
- Drain the tofu and wrap in clean kitchen towels or paper towels. Remove excess water from the tofu by placing a weight on top. Let sit for 10 minutes. Unwrap the tofu and cut it into bite-size pieces.
- Season ¼ cup flour with ½ teaspoon salt. Coat the tofu in the seasoned tofu, shaking off the excess.
- Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In the same pan, prepare the sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat and add the chopped bell pepper. Saute for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and Thai chili, cooking for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Add ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoon fish sauce, 2 teaspoon brown sugar and bring to a boil. Mix 1 teaspoon corn starch with 1 tablespoon water to make a cornstarch slurry and add it to the sauce. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
- Add the tofu to the sauce and toss to evenly coat. Add fresh basil and give one final stir. Serve immediately.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
When I make a tofu stir-fry where the tofu is the only ingredient, I want to make it the star. So we're going to take an extra step and drain the tofu before cooking it. Packaged tofu always comes packed in water. We want to remove as much of that water as possible in order to get the tofu crispy. To do this, wrap the tofu in clean kitchen towels or paper towels and place a weight on top. The towels will soak up all of the moisture leaving you with a firm tofu block.
Coat the tofu with flour seasoned with salt and pan fry until golden-brown on both sides. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
The sauce is the liquid gold to this chili basil tofu stir fry. The oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce add the savory and salty component while the brown sugar gives it a touch of sweetness and the Thai chili adds some necessary spice. Simmer the sauce until slightly thickened and give it a taste. You want to make sure it's well-balanced since this is where all the flavor of the dish comes from.
Toss the tofu in the sauce making sure to coat every nook and cranny. Finish the dish with fresh Thai basil, because what stir fry isn't complete without the addition of fresh herbs?
I am happy to say that I now have another vegetarian dish to add to my list. I absolutely loved this chili basil tofu stir fry, so much so that I didn't even miss any meat! The punch of heat that balances the sweet and savory sauce with the fresh Thai basil really just works. I hope you enjoy this vegetarian Asian dish as much as I did!