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Grilled Crisp Tofu Pockets (Tahu Bakar)

Grilled Crisp Tofu Pockets (Tahu Bakar)


Grilled Crisp Tofu Pockets (Tahu Bakar) Recipe

Makes 12 pieces, to serve 4 to 6

Rojak Sauce Ingredients:

1 tablespoon dried shrimp paste or 2 teaspoons 
preroasted dried shrimp paste
3 tablespoons packed dark palm sugar or dark brown sugar
1 or 2 moderately hot red chiles, such as Fresno, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Tamarind Liquid
3 tablespoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce


11/2 pounds firm tofu
4 ounces (11/2 cups) bean sprouts
5 cups water
21/4 teaspoons salt
Canola oil for deep-frying
1 large Kirby or Persian cucumber, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut on the diagonal into thin strips, each about 2 inches long
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped


1. To make the sauce, if using unroasted dried shrimp paste for the sauce, wrap it up in a 3-inch-square piece of aluminum foil like an envelope. Flatten the packet with the heel of your hand. Roast the packet on the stovetop directly over a medium-high flame for 2 to 3 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs, until it is briny smelling; expect steam to shoot from the foil. Remove from the heat and let cool. Blast your exhaust to get rid of odor. (If using preroasted shrimp paste, skip this step.)

2. Use a small food processor to grind the shrimp paste, palm sugar, and chiles to a fine texture. Add the tamarind and sweet soy sauce and process until smooth (you’ll have about 1/2 cup). Transfer to a bowl if using soon. Or, refrigerate in a tightly capped jar for up to a week; return to room temperature before using.

3. Halve the tofu crosswise, then cut each half into squarish pieces about 21/4 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick. You should have 12 pieces total. Put in a bowl. Put the bean sprouts in another bowl. Set aside.

4. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat. After the boiling subsides, measure 3 cups and add the salt, stirring to dissolve. Pour this salted water over the tofu, covering it. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Pour the remaining (unsalted) hot water over the bean sprouts to cover. When the sprouts have softened, about 2 minutes, drain, flush with cold water, and set aside to drain well. The bean sprouts can be prepped several days in advance and refrigerated.

5. When the tofu is ready, pour off the water, then transfer the pieces to a non-terry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels placed atop a plate. Let drain for about 
15 minutes.

6. Heat 11/2 inches of oil in a wok, deep skillet, or saucepan over high heat to between 360° and 370°F. Blot excess water from the tofu one last time, then fry in batches of 4 to 6 pieces, sliding them into the oil, then gently stirring them with chopsticks or a skimmer to fry evenly and prevent them from sticking. If they stick, let them fry until they are light golden before nudging them apart, or remove the pieces from the oil, separate, then quickly replace them in the oil to finish frying. The tofu should be crisp and deep golden after 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the fried tofu on paper towels. Return the oil to temperature before frying another batch. Set aside to cool. The tofu may be fried and refrigerated up to 5 days ahead; return it to room temperature before grilling.

7. To grill the tofu, prepare a very hot charcoal fire (it’s ready when you can hold your hand over the rack for only 2 to 3 seconds) or heat a gas grill to high. Grill the tofu for about 3 minutes on each side, until hot and crisp with some dark charring. Dab some sauce on the tofu before it comes off the grill, for caramelization, if you like. Transfer to a plate and let cool for a few minutes. (Alternatively, broil the tofu in a toaster oven directly on the rack for about 6 minutes, turning midway, until hot and slightly crisp at the edges.)

8. Lay each piece of tofu on your work surface and use a paring knife to cut a pocket into one side. To assemble, drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of sauce into each pocket before stuffing in the bean sprouts and cucumber, letting a few hang out of the opening for flair.

9. Serve the pockets on individual plates or a platter. Drizzle on some of the sauce and sprinkle on the peanuts. Offer extra sauce on the side. These pockets are best eaten as a finger food.

Reprinted with permission from Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Photo credit: Maren Caruso © 2012

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17 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Yes, Fern, a whole book devoted to Asian ways with tofu. Make your own, find the good stuff, make fab food with tofu as the star. Let the bean curd sing on center stage.

    Thanks Bee for posting this recipe from “Asian Tofu”. It’s a winner whenever I make it for guests.

  2. swtd12eams

    Wow! you’re friends with Andrea? I recently just took a tofu cooking class with her where she showed us how to make our own tofu-fa, and some other dishes. I really enjoyed having her as a teacher. She was friendly and very knowledgeable.

    Yum! I love tofu as well.

  3. Anon

    Hi Bee… I believe the correct spelling for tofu in Bahasa Malaysia is ‘tauhu’. ‘Tahu’ means ‘know’. Anyway, I love this post :)

    • Hi Anon,

      Just to follow-up on me previous comment regarding “tahu/tauhu”. When I was writing “Asian Tofu” I spent hours figuring out how to spell tofu in various Asian languages. It got murky with Bahasa so I surveyed cookbooks that covered Malaysian/Singaporean/Indonesian fare.

      What I found was that “tahu” was used in works by Sri Owen, James Oseland, and Yasa Boga. Betty Saw spelled it as “tauhu” and “taufu”. Lee Sook Sing spelled it as “towfoo”. In the end, I chose the spelling that was most used, hence tahu. I wish that there had been a consistent Romanized spelling.

      With all due respect, we’re going to keep the spelling as “tahu” so as to lessen confusion with other dishes from the region. I greatly appreciate your calling it out as it’s a great language lesson.

      It’s hard to work in multiple languages. And these are the challenges. They’re also the kind of things that keep me at night. At the end of the day, it’s about the recipe. This one is a head turner. ;-)

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