Southeast Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps


We’re talking about soy this month – its environmental and social impact as a monoculture crop as well as its nutritional profile. Traditional soy products, both fermented and non (tofu, miso, and tempeh) are nutritious and tasty and can be used in so many ways. It’s the processed soy products that aren’t so good for our bodies. As part of our soy series, you’ll be seeing recipes using traditional, minimally-processed soy foods.

This first recipe is easy to put together, flavorful, light, and fun to eat. Try it as an appetizer or serve it as part of a Southeast Asian meal presented family style.

Southeast Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Serves 6 for an appetizer

-You will need:

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce

Peeled and finely chopped cucumber
Finely diced red onion
Finely chopped cilantro
Finely chopped mint
Finely chopped Serrano chilies, with seeds (mixed red and green is good)
Chopped roasted peanuts

1 tablespoon peanut oil
12 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Whole iceberg or large leaf lettuce leaves, washed and dried

-To make:

Prepare the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together in a small serving bowl until sugar dissolves. Set aside. (Note: use organic ingredients whenever possible.)

Chop the ingredients for the garnish and place on a large platter in little piles or in individual bowls.

Heat the peanut oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the tofu and let it cook, stirring occasionally to keep it from breaking up too much until it is warmed through and beginning to brown. Add the soy sauce, sugar and fish sauce. Cook, stirring for a few minutes, until the flavorings fully coat the tofu.

-To serve:

Place the tofu filling in a bowl and serve with the garnishes and the dressing on the side, with the lettuce leaves on a separate platter.

Let each guest fill their lettuce leaves with tofu and vegetables, spooning the dressing over each portion. Roll and eat

Recipe copyright Vanessa Barrington 2009

Image: マユミ

(Note: image also depicts grilled eggplant)

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.