Fried tofu is served with vegetables and dressed with peanut and sweet soy sauce based dressing. A seriously humble, easy yet very delicious meal!
“The grass is greener at the other side” Ain’t that the truth? At least that’s how I feel sometimes when I saw my friends posting Indonesian food they ate and here I was thousands of miles away, kept swallowing the saliva that just wouldn’t stop gushing. How I wish I were there! But I am equipped with what God has given all of us, a brain, and other body parts and senses to perform the task I want to do, re-create the food I’m missing every day. I just rehearsed the list of food that I’m going to eat if we go back to Indonesia for vacation one day. I’ll spare you the detail here. It’s VERY long!! but I can share with you one of the foods I had been craving, tahu goreng kecap!
WHAT IS TAHU GORENG KECAP?
In Indonesian, tahu = tofu, goreng= fried, kecap = soy sauce. In this case, it is sweet soy sauce or famously known as kecap manis. So tahu goreng kecap is basically fried tofu served on a bed of veggies such as cabbage, bean sprouts, tomatoes, sometimes lontong (rice cakes), and dressed with peanut and sweet soy sauce based dressing. It is basically a street food that many locals enjoy. It’s cheap, delicious, and most importantly, fills the tummy!
THE PEANUT SWEET SOY SAUCE DRESSING
The dressing is made with coarsely ground peanuts, shrimp paste, shallots, garlic, chili (not used in this recipe), simmered in water and herbs like bay leaves and kaffir lime leaves and then kecap manis is added. The aroma is incredible! I love bay leaves and kaffir lime leaves.
HOW TO GET CRISPY TOFU
Traditionally, the tofu is deep-fried, that’s why it’s called tahu goreng kecap. The tofu is pan-fried in this recipe.
I used extra-firm tofu. Find the firmest tofu you can get. I press the tofu further (you’ll be surprised by how much liquid comes out of even extra-firm tofu). The drier the tofu, the firmer it is and the crispier the tofu will be. You don’t need to be deep-frying it. All I did was pan-frying them in a bit of oil and they are crispy.
I got this Tahu Goreng recipe from my mom. Almost 2.5 years ago when I just had our second baby, she made me few batches of the sauce before she left after helping us with taking care of our newborn at that time. She was concerned that I wouldn’t have much time to cook and she made me lots of other sauces that I can deep-freeze and used anytime I want. Isn’t Mama is the best in this whole wide world? Of course by now, those sauces had long gone. It wasn’t hard to make and all and it’s my absolute favorite to make because I can eat it on its own if I want a lighter meal or pair it with some lontong or rice.
Tofu with sweet soy sauce dressing (tahu goreng kecap)
- 16 oz firm or extra-firm tofu
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil for pan frying
- 1/2 cabbage shredded
- 2 large tomatoes diced
- 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
Ingredients to ground:
- 1-2 red chili finely chopped
- 5 shallots peeled
- 3 cloves garlic
Peanut sweet soy sauce dressing:
- 4 kaffir lime leaves tear the edges to release flavor
- 2 bay leaves
- Fried shallots crisp bawang goreng
- Kecap manis
- Lontong (rice cakes) optional
Press the tofu (can be prepared the day before):
- Place one absorbent paper towel on cutting board. Place the tofu on top. Place another layer of absorbent paper towel on top of the tofu. Place a heavy object on top of the paper towel, such as cast-iron pan, pot, heavy plate, or heavy item that is stable enough to be put on top of the tofu. Let the tofu pressed this way for 30 minutes
- Squeeze the water out of the absorbent paper towel (you'll be surprised by how much water in the tofu, even the extra firm one) and do the same thing again one more round with new paper towel. By the second round, there shouldn't be much liquid anymore. If it does, you may need to press again
- Cut the tofu into large and thick cut
Pan-frying the tofu:
- Preheat a large non-stick pan with 1 Tbsp cooking oil. Carefully, place the tofu on the pan and let them brown and crispy on all sides
Prepare the vegetables:
- Steam the cabbage on high heat for 5 minutes. Set aside
- Place the bean sprouts in a heat-proof mixing bowl and pour hot boiling water over it to cover and let it sit for 5 minutes. Discard water and the bean sprouts are ready for salad
Making the dressing:
- In a medium saucepan, add in about 1 Tbsp of oil and add in shrimp paste and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground ingredients and stir fry for another minute. Add peanuts, herbs, and water
- Let it come to a gentle simmer and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the kecap manis and salt. Have a taste and add more kecap manis if needed. The taste should be more at the sweet side
- When ready to serve, place a few pieces of rice cake cubes on serving plate. Pile some cabbage, bean sprouts, tomato, and tahu goreng. Drizzle the dressing on top and sprinkle with some fried shallots crisp. Drizzle more kecap manis. Serve immediately
- The dressing can be made extra and then freeze in smaller portions and when ready to be used, you can reheat in saucepan or microwave