There are a number of recipes that didn’t make it into the Asian Tofu cookbook. Why? We just did not have enough space. This remarkably easy and versatile Indonesian treat is among the recipes that I set aside to post online. If you have the book already, add this to your Asia tofu recipe collection. If you don’t, this is a recipe that highlights how tofu can be transformed as well as transformative.
Tahu telur (tahu means tofu and telur means eggs) is like egg foo yung with pieces of fried tofu. In its elemental state, a block tofu is subtle in flavor, a canvas for receiving other ingredients. However, if you fry tofu, it gets a little crunchy and nutty tasting, almost like crisp chicken skin.
For these pancakes, small flattish pieces of tofu (I use Trader Joe's firm) get fried and then mixed with egg. The tofu absorbs some of the egg while lending its fattiness to reinforce that of the egg, as if it's an egg extender.
Then the mixture is dropped into hot oil. The amoeba-like pancakes develop crisp surfaces and edges. The delicately rich and eggy result gets crowned with crunchy vegetables and savory-sweet-spicy sauce, typically peanut sauce or chile-spiked sweet soy sauce; both sauces are in the photo above. The combination of texture and flavors is amazing.
I first saw tahu telur in The Best of Indonesian Cooking by Yasa Boga, a group of four entrepreneurial female home cooks. (I got my 2007 copy in Singapore; on Amazon, the book is oddly listed as a children’s book. Whatever.) The Yasa Boga ladies indicated in their book that the pancakes can be made small or large. I made mine extra small so they can be served as a snack. The addition of cornstarch helps to lightly crisp things up. The photo below shows both sides of the finished pancakes, which are each 3 to 4 inches wide.
- To turn these tofu and egg pancakes into a Vietnamese dish, serve them with the spicy garlic hoisin sauce (tuong, see Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, page 310). Or make a bunch (double or triple the recipe), wrap them up in lettuce and fresh herbs, and dunk in nuoc cham dipping sauce. I can see these in banh mi sandwich too.
- Vary the vegetables. Try julienned cucumber, carrot, jicama and/or bell pepper instead of the bean sprouts.
- Sriracha or Indian masala chile sauce would be good too. So would spicy umami ketchup!
- The pancakes would be a great accompaniment to Southeast Asian dumplings such as vegetarian crystal dumplings (chai kuih), curry puffs and lemper ayam sticky rice and spiced chicken in banana leaf. I can see eating them with curried chicken bao too!
Indonesian Tofu and Egg Pancakes
Servings: Makes 8, to serve 4 as a snack
8 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu
3/4 teaspoon plus scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
Oil for pan-frying
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Scant 1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 large eggs
3 to 4 ounces bean sprouts, washed, drained well, then cut into 1-inch lengths
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, Vietnamese coriander (rau ram, daun laksa), or Thai basil
Sauce options: (use half the amount if serving both)
4 tablespoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) mixed with 2 teaspoons Sriracha
1/2 cup peanut sauce, purchased or homemade (see the Asian Market Shopper iPhone app for a recipe)
- Cut the tofu crosswise into rectangular slices (think matchbox size), each about 1/3 inch thick. Then cut each piece crosswise to yield large postage stamp-size pieces. Put into a bowl. Dissolve 3/4 teaspoon salt in 1 1/2 cups super hot water (boil the water then measure it out is what I do). Pour the salted water over the tofu. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes, then drain. Transfer the tofu to a non-terry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels placed atop a plate. Drain for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Pour enough oil (about 3 tablespoons) to cover the bottom of a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the tofu pieces in 2 batches for about 4 minutes, turning midway, till golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and cool.
- Halve the cooled tofu pieces crosswise so they are the size of Chiclets gum. Set aside.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 1 teaspoon of water. Add the scant 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and eggs. Beat to combine well. Add the tofu and set aside.
- Add oil, if needed to the skillet to thinly coat the bottom. Heat over medium-high heat until a drop of egg sizzles. For each pancake, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the egg and tofu mixture into the skillet, laying the tofu piece down flat. Fry for about 1 minute on each side until golden brown or rich brown. You can refry the first side for about 30 seconds at the end to get it a bit crisper. Cool on a rack.
- To serve, top each pancake (it doesn't really matter which side you face upward) with bean sprouts and chopped herb. Finish with a drizzle or plop of sauce. Add a little extra herb, if you like. Eat with fork or your hands.
- Vietnamese herb primer
- Basic nuoc cham dipping sauce recipe
- Egg foo yung recipe (a Chinese-American classic)
- St. Paul sandwich recipe (aka Egg Foo Yung sandwich – why not use these Indonesian ditties for a vegetarian take?)
- Master banh mi sandwich recipe
- Spicy umami ketchup recipe
- Sriracha chile sauce recipe
- Indian masala chile sauce