This earthy, tangy main dish shares a sauce similar to my Pomegranate Sriracha Shrimp, but the tofu, soy sauce, and vegetables turn it into something distinctively delicious. Tofu is typically deep-fried for dishes like this one, but panfrying is a healthier way to inject richness and character. For texture, complexity, and color, I add mushroom and mild-tasting chiles. Anaheims are my go-to but during the warmer months when chiles are in season, I love to use varieties such as Hatch and Corno di Toro. In a major pinch, half a large bell pepper will do.
14 to 16 ounces extra-firm tofu
About 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 1/2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha, plus more as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
6 large cremini or white mushrooms, quartered, with stems intact
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot or yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Anaheim, Hatch, or sweet red chiles, trimmed and cut into 1-inch squares
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and season with a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, then let drain on a double layer of paper towels or a clean non-terry dish towel for 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons of the water, the pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, and sriracha. Taste and add the brown sugar, starting with 1 1/2 teaspoons, to create a tart sweetness; the amount you use will depend on the flavor of the molasses and your own palate. For more heat, add more sriracha, ½ teaspoon at a time. Aim for a tangy-savory-spicy dance of flavors. Set the sauce aside. In another small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons water and set aside.
In a large nonstick or carbon-steel skillet over high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the canola oil. Meanwhile, use paper towel to blot excess moisture from the tofu.
When the oil shimmers, add the tofu and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning frequently to brown on two or three sides. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.
Add the mushrooms to the hot skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until slightly shrunken, a bit browned, and glistening. Swirl in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, add the shallot and garlic, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the chiles and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until slightly softened. Return the tofu to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until hot.
Stir the sauce and add to the pan, combining it with the vegetables. Cook at a vigorous boil for 1 minute, stirring, until slightly thickened. Give the cornstarch slurry a stir, pour into the pan, and cook, stirring, for 20 to 30 seconds to thicken the sauce and coat the tofu and vegetables.
Transfer everything to a deep plate or shallow bowl and serve.
There’s some sputtering with this dish. Put newspaper on the floor next to the stove to make cleanup easier.
Instead of pomegranate molasses, use tamarind liquid, concentrate, or paste.
The tofu can be panfried 4 hours in advance and kept, covered, at room temperature.
Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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