Tahu Bacem

Pronounced TAH-hoo BAH-chem, this is a dish of tofu (tahu) simmered in spices then deep-fried. I usually just pan-fry afterwards. The surface won't be as firm, but it's still tasty.

Tahu Bacem

  • 6-8 oz. firm tofu (1/2 standard pkg.)

Drain tofu well, then press with a weighted plate for 30 min. to 1 hour. Just use canned food for weights. Cut into triangles 1" thick, with 2" sides (obviously the hypotenuse will be longer, but they don't have exactly right)

  • several daun salam (omit if unavailable)
  • 2 cloves garlic, or to taste, smashed
  • salt to taste
  • 1-1/2 tsp brown or palm sugar
  • 1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried powdered laos (also called lengkuas in Indonesian, kha in Thai)
    Powdered laos is sold in jars at some Asian markets. Dutch specialty shops also may have it, since the Dutch colonized Indonesia, which got its independence after WWII. Sometimes Thai markets have fresh kha - if you find some, use about 4 thin slices. While there's no substitute for this, you could use ginger - the flavor will be quite different, but still good and Asian

Put tofu in a deep saucepan with all the other ingrediants and enough water to cover. Bring water to boil. Reduce fire and simmer until tofu absorbs spices and changes color to a rich medium brown, at least 1/2 hour. Don't let water completely evaporate or tofu stick to bottom of pan. Drain well on paper towels.

  • vegetable oil for frying

To deep-fry, heat several inches of oil in a stable wok until hot. Using wire or slotted tool, slip the tofu, into the oil. You can fry several pieces at a time, depending on the size of your wok, but don't dump it all in at once. That will reduce the temperature of the oil and the tofu will absorb oil rather than fry in it. Fry until tofu becomes golden. You may need to adjust the heat a bit while cooking so tofu doesn't burn. Remove with wire or slotted tool and drain on paper towel.

To pan fry, heat about 1" of oil in a heavy skillet. Put several pieces of tofu in the pan and cook until golden. Again, adjust the heat to prevent burning. You will need to turn the tofu from time to time to assure even cooking on both sides. Drain on paper towel.

Tahu Bacem would be just one dish in a meal. There would also be a couple vegetable dishes. Soy sauce, called kecap (KEH-chop) in Indonesian, is NOT generally served at the table. The seasoning at the table would be a dish of sambal, any of a number of chili pastes.

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