March 17, 2012

Tofu a la BBQ

Tofu a la barbecue sauce
Tofu a la BBQ

Stir-fried veggies in a cast-iron pan.

Taras Boulba
Beer pairing: Brasserie de la Senne's Taras Boulba

Texas-style BBQ sauce is where I owe my allegiance too, however I have no fond memories of devouring beef brisket because I stopped eating beef in the 2nd grade. What I do have are wild memories of my mom and I accompanying my dad to his company parties where they would always serve Texas BBQ. Since none of us ate beef, we'd eat Texas-toast sandwiches stuffed with potato salad, macaroni salad, pickles, and we'd top off our plates with (most-likely processed) cheese slices, baked beans, and salad. Partake in Texas BBQ we did not, but I've always loved the smell from the BBQ-sauce (particularly the hickory chips from Mesquite Grill over on Bay Area Blvd).

I enjoy reading the Homesick Texan because I've finally realized what the heck is wrong with me when I think I miss Mexican. I don't miss Mexican, I miss Tex-Mex. I never stopped missing it. It's a void of emptiness that never leaves once you've resided in Texas (which btw, shame on you TX for putting women's health back in the dark ages). Lisa Fain's write-up for Sam Houston's BBQ sauce is full of history too. I've prepared Vegan Dad's barbecue sauce and enjoy his addition of whisky; so I sort of combined both recipes, but then (this might shock some of you) I used tomato chunks instead of ketchup. Perfect Sunday afternoon lunch. Don't judge. Go on try it and see for yourself.

BBQ (barbecue) sauce for Tofu a la BBQ
Adapted from the Homesick Texan and Vegan Dad BBQ recipes. 
Yield: approx. 2 cups; sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to one week. 

1 tablespoon peanut oil (you can add more, such as 3 tbsp or even 1/4 cup, I think it makes a better sauce, but I find less oil, such as 1 tbsp, perfectly acceptable).
¼ medium yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ketchup (I used 1 cup of diced tomatoes because I hate ketchup)
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce (I used soy sauce, sorry cannot find it here)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I subbed in 1 tsp red chili flakes)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp whisky (e.g. Jack Daniels, optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium-sized sauce pan heat up 1 tbsp of peanut oil. Once it gets hot add in the onion and garlic. Saute until it becomes fragrant, but don't let the onions change color too much. Keep the onions translucent. This should take about 4 minutes or less on medium heat. Add in the ketchup through salt and pepper. Stir everything together to ensure it mixes well.

Let it simmer partially covered for about 25 minutes. Adjust for taste. You might want to add more chili powder, smoked paprika, or salt. The sauce will store well in the fridge for a week.

Here's how I serve it: I pan-fry extra-firm tofu in a cast-iron pan. I heat up 2 tbsp of peanut oil over medium heat in a cast iron and once hot, I add in the tofu. You can do both while the BBQ sauce simmers. The tofu can go mostly ignored because you don't want to touch it until it starts to get visibly golden on the bottom. I cut the tofu into 2" long rectangles. Use a high quality tofu, preferably one from an Asian store that is slightly sour and pressed very well. Once the tofu is golden, I remove it from the pan and then slice the 2" rectangle in half. I add the tofu to the BBQ sauce and let it heat up and then serve it immediately.

Since the cast iron pan is still hot, I stir-fry veggies (mushrooms, bell-peppers, and onions) and serve the BBQ tofu with some couscous to soak up the sauce. You can also serve up some collard greens (there's my NC roots showing), and some macaroni and cheese. As an undergrad at the University of Houston, there used to be a vegan truck at the back of the stadium parking lot (I think off Cullen); they used to serve the best vegan soul food. They'd routinely serve battered tofu "fish," bbq-tofu, collard greens, macaroni and cheeze, and cornbread. My god. It was the best.

A grassy, dry, and light (at 4.5%) Taras Boulba (essentially a light Belgian-style pale ale) was an excellent complement to the spicy tofu. I can't believe I haven't been to this brewery yet, or at least quaffed more of their beers. It looks like they are still settling into finding a brewery. Check out there awesome artwork. A dry, and slightly citrusy beer would be a good choice. Recommendations gladly accepted.

Eet smakelijk!


  1. Nilam, I had no idea of your Tex-Mex upbringing, or of your Texan BBQ alter ego. Damn, you must have felt so out of place and wanting to rebel against the Eastern BBQ when living in NC ;-)

    Now I'm glad we took you to Iron Horse in PDX. Not quite as good as the real deal, but probably one of the closest you could get in Portland ;-)

  2. Nico, it's always fun when people here ask me what part of the US I'm from. Technically, I've spent time in all regions ;)