I love, love, love Thai flavors, and I enjoy making this easy approximation of tofu larb (pronounced lob) between visits to my favorite local Thai restaurant, Lum Ka Naad, on Reseda Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley. The bright tastes of sauteed tofu and herbs wrapped in the deep crunch of lettuce or cabbage are a just-right combo in my book!
This recipe is an approximation because I’m improvising in a way that evokes the dish and suits my cooking style. It serves two as a meal or more on small plates.
1 lb. extra firm tofu, cubed
Crisp head of lettuce or cabbage, or both
Fresh bunches of cilantro, scallion, basil, and mint
Fresh lime to taste
Soy sauce, tamari, or Braggs Aminos to taste
Chili oil, chili paste or Sriracha to taste, optional
A garlic clove or two, minced, optional
If you’re using garlic, heat it in a little oil (olive, peanut, sesame, etc.) for a couple of minutes, then add the tofu cubes and let them sizzle and brown a bit on one side before turning them. At Lum Ka Naad the tofu is cut in big chunks with a serrated blade so each piece has its own textured shape and little pockets for herbs to hang out in. The last time I made it at home I miraculously found just the right blade in my kitchen drawer!
While the tofu is sizzling, chop a big handful of each of the herbs, reveling in the mix of their amazing aromas. Place another handful of the uncut herb of your choice on each plate along with a big cut slab of lettuce and/or cabbage.
Drizzle a lime or two over the tofu, to your taste, along with a swirl of soy, tamari, or Braggs Aminos to taste, delivering acid and saltiness. Lastly, stir in the herbs, turn off the burner, and let the dish rest for a bit while all the flavors marry. Plate the tofu mix and bring “heat” to the table for individual use. (I put some Sriracha right on the plate above while cooking away from home with what’s available. I usually add a beautiful swirl of chili oil or stir in a teaspoon or more of chili paste. Yep, I like it hot.)
Then I use my fingers and a fork to put together little flavor packets of the tofu mixture in the lettuce or cabbage leaves. Thus begins a tasty, healthy crunch-fest. Mmmmmmmmm. Oh, and the lunchtime cocktail above is organic grapefruit juice and sparkling water. At Lum Ka Naad a Thai beer is my go-to. ENJOY!