Tag Archives: Vegetarian Cooking

Tofu and Cashew Nut Curry

So, in celebration of the Yan Kit So award (see my last post), here’s a brand new recipe:


The turmeric blends with the coconut milk and lemongrass to create a rich, subtly sweet sauce, that gradually absorbs into the tofu and cashews as they simmer gently. And the green Thai Basil and fresh red chillies contrast sharply with the mild flavours and the all consuming yellow…

This mild curry was inspired by the many delicious recipes for lemongrass tofu that you find in the South of Vietnam. Vietnamese curries are elegant – delicate but very fragrant, with abundant use of lemongrass, ginger and fresh chillies, as you will see… Although I’ve not often found tofu with cashew nuts together in Vietnamese cookery both are used individually and go very well together. Credit goes to my partner and colleague Luke for the idea to add cashews (coconut milk was my idea)! We’ve been working on different lemongrass tofu recipes for years, and this is a good one.

Recipe (serves 4):

450g block of firm tofu, chopped into 2cm cubes
3 stalks of lemongrass, chopped very finely or grated
2 chillies, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 inch piece of garlic, peeled and chopped very finely or grated
165ml coconut milk
80 ml water (or coconut milk for a richer sauce)
1 1/2 tsp turmeric, ground
100g cashews
1tsp lime juice
2 tbsp thin soy sauce
A handful of Thai Basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 – 2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
salt, to taste

Fry the garlic, chillies and ginger on a low medium heat for 3 minutes, then add the lemongrass and fry for another 2 minutes.

Add the tofu, coconut milk, water, nuts, lime juice, soy sauce and sugar, then cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring whilst being careful not to break up the tofu too much. Add the salt and pepper, then simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. Take off the heat and leave for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better, it will taste better the day after). Reheat and stir through the Thai basil, and serve with fresh rice and a vegetable dish.

(Photo by Luke Walker)


Banh Chung

Wrapped Banh Chung P1020674 

The unwrapping of the cooked, mung bean Banh Chung from its Banana Leaf raiments. The banana leaves dye the glutinous rice green and give it a faint smell of green tea.

Banh Chung is a steamed glutinous rice cake with a bean and sometimes pork filling that the Vietnamese traditionally make for Tet – the lunar new year. The cakes are boiled for about 6 hours in big stockpot and the whole process reminded me of making Christmas Pudding. Interesting that when making food for special occasions, totally different cultures have gone traditionally for that same soft, dense pudding texture.

There are many ways you can enjoy a slice of Banh Chung in the weeks following Tet – fry a piece in a little oil; microwave it; steam it. I made 6 and ended up having a microwaved piece for breakfast with a little sugar on top every morning for about a month until we’d eaten up all the cakes up. I sometimes ate it with a bit of pickled mouli as well, although be careful to use rice vinegar or you might end up with a kind of pungent, fish and chips style smell pervading your breakfast (my dad’s recipe). I was fine with that but it’s not exactly a delicate flavour.


I used this vegetarian starter recipe to make the Banh Chung – http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-banh-chung-vietnamese-rice-cakes-164610. However, I increased the quantity of mung beans to 2 cups to give a more generous filling, and used a red onion. For next year’s Tet I plan to add a couple of Shitake mushrooms to the mung bean filling, to give it a more juicy texture and richer flavour that seeps into the rice, which is what pork fat does in the non-vegetarian version. If you wanted to make a sweet cake, you could also add some slices of banana to the mung bean paste, which I’m sure would be really soft and delicious. The cakes last in the fridge for a week but you can also freeze them for up to about a month, just make sure you freeze them soon after they’ve finished cooking.