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Larb - Spicy Minced Tofu

What you need: 

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 stalks lemon grass, white parts only, finely chopped
2 Thai hot peppers, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lime rind
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 teaspoon powdered galangel ginger
4-5 shallots
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup raw peanuts, chopped
1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed and finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped
bunch of cilantro (about 30 stalks), chopped
1/8-1/4 cup finely chopped mint leaves, optional

What you do: 

1. Heat sesame oil in wok or large pan. Add lemon grass, being sure to discard the most fibrous parts, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap tofu block in a dish towel and put a weight on top, so that extra water is pressed out.
2. Add chili peppers. Use less if you don't like it spicy, or take out the seeds. Add lime rind, vegetable bouillon, powdered galangel, and shallots. Cook until shallots become translucent and lemongrass is edible.
3. Add garlic and raw peanuts. Cook for 4 minutes.
4. Add chopped tofu and mix. Squeeze the lime juice into the mixture. Cook for 5 minutes or so, letting the extra water escape.
5. Add scallions, cilantro, and mint (if using). Cook until wilted and hot.
6. Serve on a bed of lettuce, with fresh tomato slices and hot rice on the side.
Source of recipe: This recipe was inspired by the wonderful Thai restaurant, Esan Thai Restaurant, in Bloomington, Indiana. They offer this dish with tofu and meat, but all the recipes I have been able to find used meat and even otherwise were never were quite right. After experimenting, this at least approximates the taste of their dish. I read that "larb" simply means "salad."

Preparation Time: 
10 minutes, Cooking time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 
20 minutes
Servings: 
2
Recipe Category: 

SO HOW'D IT GO?

I would at least double the amount of lime juice for this recipe.  Also, it needs ground pan toasted rice (maybe a couple tablespoons) for some toasted flavor and crunch -- I think that's what you're trying to do with the peanuts, but they can get soggy and chewy and the traditional way is with rice.  I usually use dried, crushed Thai chili peppers, but if you want to use fresh chili peppers pound them with the garlic in a mortar before adding.  It's much easier and faster than mincing everything.  Personally I wouldn't cook the lime juice and herbs since it changes their flavors significantly.  The fresh herbs are what make this dish.

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I know what you mean. It isn't quite perfect, so I am still experimenting. Please let me know if you can improve this recipe! One addition I have tried is adding some toasted rice grains that have been pulverized in a blender-- this makes it closer, but still not quite there.

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I had larb for the first time at a great Thai restaurant in Washington, DC last month.  I have looked everywhere for a recipe that would duplicate the taste of this dish which is sour, salty, and spicy all in one.  Although this recipe was good, it didn't taste enough like the dish I had.  I might try using more lime next time because it didn't seem like enough.  Overall, it was a good dish and if someone had not had the dish I had in the restaurant, they would still like this quite a lot.  It was a nice change from some of the tofu dishes I have made over the years so thank you for the recipe.

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