The sauce has so much more than lemongrass and chilies in it but to include all the ingredients in the name of the dish will make it so long that no one is likely to remember it. Mushrooms and tofu with lemongrass chili sauce captures the essence of the dish and leaves just enough mystery for you to wonder if, indeed, the ingredients are as few as four.
There are definitely more than four ingredients in this dish. But you don’t see all of them because most went into the sauce which was simmered until syrupy then left overnight to infuse.
All that trouble for a sauce? Well, when you taste it, you’ll know it’s worth the waiting.
That’s the lemongrass chili sauce after simmering for ten minutes. If you’re wondering what all those bits and pieces are, I’ll enumerate them for you: garlic, ginger, chilies, finely sliced lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and kaffir lime zest.
And how did the sauce acquire that deep amber color? Fish sauce and light brown sugar. And there’s a generous amount of lime juice in the sauce too.
Lime juice? Yes, there was a typhoon recently and the gusty winds tore so many kaffir limes from the tree. I zested them then squeezed them to get the juice. I understand that kaffir lime is not as widely available as lime so, yes, you may substitute regular lime. I understand too that lime is more expensive than lemon so, yes, you may use lemon juice and zest.
There is no substitute, however, for the kaffir lime leaves. They add such a magnificent aroma and flavor to the sauce but, if you can’t get your hands on any, just omit the kaffir lime leaves.
I had more lemongrass chili sauce than I needed for this mushrooms and tofu dish. I used only about one fourth cup to flavor the mushrooms and tofu. That was quite enough to coat them to give them a glossy appearance and a slightly sticky texture.
And the leftover sauce? I simply poured the rest into a jar with a screw-on cap and kept it in the fridge. It can be a finishing sauce or a dipping sauce for grilled or fried meat, chicken or seafood.
This mushrooms and tofu with lemongrass chili sauce is a meatless dish although not exactly vegetarian because of the fish sauce. If you want to transform it into a vegan dish, omit the fish sauce and use salt in its place. The aroma and flavor of the sauce and dish won’t be the same, however.
I served this mushrooms and tofu with lemongrass chili sauce as an appetizer yesterday; you may serve it as a side dish as well.
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions
In a small sauce pan, stir all the ingredients together with a quarter cup of water.
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for ten minutes until reduced by about a third. The sauce will thicken a bit more as it cools. Leave it to infuse while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. If you have the time, you may cook the sauce a day ahead and let it infuse at room temperature overnight.
Cut the tofu into one-inch cubes.
Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan.
Fry the tofu in the hot oil until golden and crisp. Flip them around during frying for even browning.
Scoop out the tofu and set aside.
Pour off the oil from the frying pan leaving only about two tablespoonfuls. Reheat the oil.
Over medium heat, cook the quartered mushrooms with the sliced onion in the hot oil with a little salt and pepper for about two minutes.
Add the tofu back to the pan. Stir.
Take about a quarter cup of the sauce, pour over the tofu and mushrooms and cook, tossing, for about half a minute to heat the tofu cubes through.
Spoon the mushrooms and tofu with lemongrass chili sauce into small bowls. Drizzle any remaining sauce in the pan directly over the mushrooms and tofu. Sprinkle with sliced scallions before serving.