I loved the chicken version of this dish in Northern Thailand some years ago and have been plotting a plant-based version for ages. Basically a one-pot dish, this is traditionally made with fish sauce. I was going to ignore that little detail until I found the Vegan Miam blog which suggested substituting with light golden soy and pineapple juice — and it works! The x-factor is rice toasted with kaffir lime leaves then ground. It’s beautifully nutty and aromatic, with a little crunch. Add it just before serving so it keeps that texture while soaking up the tangy citrus juices. Sticky rice is very easy to make but be sure to buy the proper glutinous rice, that’s a crucial detail.
For the vegan fish sauce
For the toasted rice mixture
For the tofu and rice
- Steam the glutinous rice. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer you can use a big strainer resting over a big pot filled with about a litre of boiling water (not touching the water). Put the soaked rice in the strainer and cover with a lid, then steam for 20 minutes. Turn over part way through if needed.
- For the vegan fish sauce mix together pineapple juice, water, soy sauce and salt.
- For the toasted rice mix, heat the jasmine rice and kaffir lime leaves in a small pot on high heat. Shake and toss continually for about 5-7 minutes until an even tan colour and smelling wonderful, then quickly tip into a mortar and pestle to stop it burning. Grind until partly fine, partly rough.
- Heat the peanut oil in a large pan and fry the lemongrass and ginger for a few seconds before adding the tofu. Cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned then add the salt, orange juice, coconut sugar, miso paste and pepper, stirring to combine. Cook another few minutes to coat the tofu and absorb all the liquid then remove from heat. Add shallots, spring onion and garlic to the warm tofu and stir. Let them sit for a couple of minutes so they soften and mellow. Add chilli flakes, vegan fish sauce (see above), lime juice, mandarin juice, corianderand mint and mix well to combine, add 3 Tbsp (or more to taste) of the toasted rice last. Taste and add more chilli or lime juice if you want more zing.
- Serve on a bed of cos lettuce leaves with fresh mint to garnish and steamed rice alongside.
I made larb tofu for Aucklanders Matthew and Diana. They are keen early adopters when it comes to trying new foods and surprised me with what they have in their pantry. Being health-conscious eaters I hoped they’d appreciate this light and zingy dish with its fresh herbs and citrus. Diana is breastfeeding at the moment so we kept the chilli separate and only added it to our own bowls to suit. - Aaron
Matthew said “Wow that’s super-yummy and it really packs a punch!”
Diana said “I could gladly have this a few times a week”