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Easy family favourites with Dominique Woolf: Singapore-style Chilli Tofu

by Dominique Woolf

published on 20 May 2022

The bustling night market of China Town in Bangkok is where I first tasted the delights of Singapore-style chilli prawns, based on the famous Singapore chilli crab. Being a sauce fanatic, I was in absolute heaven. The spicy, sweet, savoury, tomatoey sauce was so lip-smackingly good, I could have eaten just that and been happy.

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to recreate it when I got home, and it has been a household favourite ever since – simple to whip up and bursting with flavour. This version uses tofu as a brilliant, accidentally veggie alternative and is one I cook frequently. If you’re not a tofu fan, however, then don’t turn away! I know tofu can have a bad reputation and may be a less familiar ingredient – however, if you love the sound of this sauce, then I promise this dish will convert you! 

I made it for my ‘midweek recipe’ on The Great Cookbook Challenge and the judges loved it – thankfully! They marvelled at how I managed to get tofu tasting so good. The trick is to fry it first, so it becomes nice and crispy on the outside, and fluffy in the middle. It transforms the texture and really makes all the difference. You don’t need lots of oil – in fact, I just use one tablespoon plus a good non-stick pan.

And as for the sauce, believe it or not, it is surprisingly easy to make, using store cupboard ingredients like ketchup (yes, ketchup!), sweet chilli and soy. An egg is added towards the end to thicken and add richness, but feel free to omit it for a vegan version.

I often make this for guests (simply double the recipe) and it has always been a runaway success, the addictive sauce proving a hit time and time again. Although chillis are an integral part of the traditional recipe, you can of course reduce the amount for a family-friendly version.

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Dominique Woolf

Singapore-style Chilli Tofu

Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2)

40g cashew nuts

neutral oil, for frying

200g firm tofu, dried with kitchen paper and cut into bite-sized cubes

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated ginger (approx. 3cm)

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 red chillies, finely chopped (use fewer chillies or deseed if you prefer a milder heat)

1 medium tomato, diced

200ml hot vegetable or chicken stock, or boiling water

½ a medium head of broccoli or 150g tenderstem broccoli, cut into small florets

1 small egg, lightly beaten (the egg thickens the sauce, and adds a lovely richness and flavour, but can easily be omitted for a vegan version).

For the sauce:

4 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil, preferably toasted

To serve:

rice

Method

Toast the cashews in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and when hot, add the tofu and fry for 5–10 minutes, until all sides are golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and place near the stove.

Wipe any excess tofu crumbs from the pan, then add another tablespoon of oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions, ginger, garlic and chillies along with a pinch of salt. Cook for 7–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add another drizzle of oil, if necessary.

Add the tomatoes along with the sauce and simmer for 3–5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have reduced down. Stir frequently to prevent it sticking to the pan, adding a splash of water, if needed.

Pour in the hot stock or water, turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Add the broccoli and coat in the sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in the egg, and stir to mix. Return the tofu to the pan
and cook for a further minute, until heated through and the broccoli is just cooked. Loosen the sauce with a little water, if needed, then taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Just before serving, stir through the toasted cashews. Serve with rice.

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