Serves 2 as a starter

I pulled this recipe from Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen (recipes also by Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen).

Red Lantern is a Surry Hills Vietnamese restaurant, with almost a cult following; the food is modern and brilliantly executed, with great service and a dark, red atmosphere.

Indeed, my mother took me to a Fish Market Cooking School around 2003 held by Mark Jensen and we cooked a prawn dish that really marked a turning point in my passion for cooking. Subsequently, I’ve eaten at Red Lantern at least a dozen times since.

This dish is very satisfying, both from the perspective of cooking it, and eating it. Tofu is one of those ingredients you cook just not quite enough to be completely confident; and yet once you’ve finished deep frying it and the smell of the spring onions, chilli and garlic in the oil hits, you know you’re onto something fabulous.

This could be done as part of a Vietnamese feast or a starter as part of a dinner party, possibly served with other interesting starters. It really is a unique, sharp and tasty dish.

Ingredients

250g tofu pillows (Chinese-style pressed firm tofu)
Oil
2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper seasoning mix (Combine 1 tbs salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp ground ginger, ½ teaspoon five-spice)
Lemon

Method

  1. Cut the tofu into 4x2cm cubes and place on a cloth to dry; in a standard tofu pack, this makes 6.
  2. Put enough oil in a wok to deep-fry the tofu, and heat to 180c. This will cook a brown a bread cube in 15 seconds.
  3. Deep-fry the tofu for 5 minutes or until golden and very crispy. Remove from the wok and reserve the oil for later use.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of the reserved oil to the wok and place over a high heat.
  5. Add the spring onions, chilli and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the tofu and salt a pepper seasoning and toss.
  6. Serve with salt, pepper and sprinkle of lemon.

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