Freezing transforms the soft, silky texture of the tofu into a tougher, chewier texture similar to chicken, pork, or beef. Traditionally, Kaffir lime leaves are used in panang, but they are often hard to find. For ease of preparation, we substituted fresh lime juice and zest for the Kaffir leaves.
Yield: 6 main-dish servings
- 2 (12.2 ounce) packages extra-firm silken tofu
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
- 2 (13.66 ounce) cans coconut milk
- 2 large, leafy sprigs Thai basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Hot cooked jasmine rice
- Sprigs fresh Thai basil
Cut tofu crosswise into 1/2-inch slices; cut slices in half crosswise. Place tofu slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze for at least 48 hours.
Thaw tofu at room temperature for 1 hour; drain well on paper towels.
Place a large, heavy non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Divide tofu slices into 2 batches. Add 1 batch tofu slices to skillet; cook 5 minutes or until tofu is brown. Turn slices; cook 5 minutes or until second side is brown. Remove from skillet; set aside to keep warm. Follow same procedure for second batch of tofu slices.
Heat oil to skillet over medium heat; add onion, and cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add curry paste, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk, stirring well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce temperature to low and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add basil, lime juice and zest, fish sauce, and brown sugar, stirring well. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add reserved tofu slices to sauce, and cook until thoroughly heated. Remove and discard sprigs of basil. To serve, spoon tofu and sauce mixture over hot cooked rice, and garnish with sprigs fresh basil.