Curry in a Hurry: Lemongrass Tofu in Red Curry Sauce

During Lent,  cooking vegetarian can be challenging if you aren’t use to it.  I decided, last minute, to make tofu in a light coconut curry sauce with lots of veggies.  It’s a light sauce because most recipes call for 2 cans of coconut milk, but I used 1 can and the dish came out great.  What a comfort food this is…By the time my husband, Adam, came home, the house was filled with the aroma of Jasmine rice.

Rice and Kitchen Gadgets

Prior to having my little one, Elias, I would cook the rice on the stove, which I still do, if time permits. But, there is a relief, similar to that with the crock pot, knowing that you can stick ingredients in a pot, and when a specific amount of time has passed, you know your dish is ready.  There is something to be said for that.  I didn’t appreciate these wonderful gadgets before, but now, as a mom with a toddler, they are coveted in the kitchen.  And on that particular night, I had zero stress playing with my son while the rice was cooking and once that warm button clicked, I knew dinner was done.  Curry is a different story, but nonetheless, was done “in a hurry”, hence, “Curry in a Hurry”.  I don’t think I could ever stick curry in a crock pot.  To me, that is borderline “sacrilegious”.  Leave the stews, soups, sauces, even roasts for the crock pot, if you must, but with Thai, keep it real.

Coconut Milk

This curry recipe was made with less coconut milk than most other recipes.  Curry with coconut milk is like butter in icing, DELICIOUS!  We eat very healthy in this house and if I want to have a Thai dish without feeling guilty, then something has to give.  Coming from a family history of heart disease, there are certain ingredients we just don’t eat, but it seems for the past twenty years or so, coconut milk has had a bad rap.  See this article on how coconut milk is making a comeback:

Bell Peppers

This is the time of year that the markets have a barrage of peppers: red, yellow, green, and orange.  For the this dish, I only used the red and yellow, but throwing in some more color would have been great.

Chef Martin Yan did a demonstration on the today show on how to “Chop bell peppers like a champion”. You can view Martin Yan’s demo by clicking here :                                                                             Go ahead and practice with 1 red and 1 yellow pepper.  You can use these in the recipe.


The difference between this curry recipe and others is lemongrass.  Lemongrass in curry? I had lemongrass spoiling in my fridge because I was lazy and didn’t soak it in water like you are supposed to do to preserve it. Why not experiment with some lemongrass?  Here is some background information on lemongrass.  Traditionally, you only eat the white parts, but, you can use the green parts for infusing flavor.  I chopped up 2 stalks very finely and in hot oil, while the tofu was getting golden.  When the tofu was ready, I just fished it out and left the tofu in the oil.  If I noticed the Lemongrass starting to get really dark, I took it out of the frying pan.

Recipe for Lemongrass Tofu in Red Curry Sauce.  

Light Tofu Red Curry

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes                                                                                                                                                                                      Cook time: 30 minutes

  • 1 -19oz package of refrigerated firm tofu
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil for frying tofu
  • 1-13.5oz. can of coconut milk (see note)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil (thai basil is preferred, but not needed)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass
  • 2Tbsp of Red curry paste
  • 1 lime
Remove tofu from package, remove any excess water, and pat dry.  Cut the tofu in cubes and pat dry again. Let the tofu sit and .  While the tofu is drying, chop the basil, onion, lemongrass, and peppers, and set aside.
Place oil and lemongrass in a large frying pan on medium high.  When oil is hot, lower heat just a little to medium and add the tofu. If the pan can’t hold all of the tofu, fry in batches. Have a plate with a paper towel on it to pull the oil from the fried tofu.  Each side should take about 3-4 minutes to get golden.  The tofu is done when it golden color and spongy.  Place cooked tofu on a plate with paper towel and repeat with other batch.  When all of the tofu has been cooked, remove lemongrass from oil and discard. Set tofu aside.
Drain some of the oil out and reserve just enough to saute the peppers and onions. Once finished, add chopped basil, peppers, and onion and cook the vegetables as desired. Some people prefer veggies crunchy and some like them tender.
“To each his/her own”… Once cooked, remove the vegetables and remove the oil from pan.  Set the vegetables aside.
Don’t pat dry the pan. Just pour out the oil and set the pan back on the hot stove on medium-high.
To make the curry sauce.  Pour coconut cream, not milk, into the pan. Reduce this down for about 2-3 minutes to release the oil and add the curry paste.  Use a whisk to stir the paste into the cream. Reduce heat to medium.  Let the curry-cream mix cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and continue to whisk the sauce.  Once the sauce has come to a boil, mix the tofu and vegetables into the curry sauce.  Let simmer on low for 10 minutes. Serve over Jasmine rice with a quarter of the lime and some basil for garnish.  Enjoy!
Jasmine Rice:
Cook rice according to directions on package.  I use a rice cooker. Rinse rice before using to get rid of starch.  The ratio for cooking rice in a cooker or on the stove is 2:1. Two cups of water to one cup of rice. The other option is to cook it like spaghetti. This is tricky and requires skill because you have to make sure enough water is added. It also requires attention.  Use a rice cooker, save time. 🙂
Note: The coconut milk used should be the “regular”  kind as the “light” version has fillers.  Also, try not to shake the can because when coconut milk sits, the cream rises to the top. In colder weather, this is apparent, but in warmer weather, try putting the can in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. When ready to use the coconut milk, spoon the cream from the top and reserve the milk for later on in the recipe.

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