Mint & Pepper Tofu Larb
Whenever I go out for Thai food, which was a bit more often than I do now :-/, I always end up ordering larb. It’s usually on the healthier side, with fresh herbs (mint! cilantro! flavor!) and lettuce to wrap it all up in. It’s bright in flavor with tangy lime, a punch of salt, a bit of crunch, and just the right amount of spice. And all that said, it sort of seems intimidating to make at home because doesn’t most Thai food seem intimidating to make?
But when my friend told me she had a secret recipe for vegan tofu larb and that she wanted us to make it together, I was all in. Yes, please teach me your delicious ways!
Turns out, you can make some AMAZING larb at home, using tofu, making it vegan, having it taste better than restaurant varieties, AND is actually pretty easy to make!
Impressed I was by this magical dish.
But first, there’s a bit of that magic I do have to share and that absolutely sets this dish above and beyond expectations.
Magic ingredient #1: Toasted and ground rice. Odd, yes. Delicious addition? Ooooh yes!
Toasting uncooked rice creates a nutty and… well, toasted flavor; Roughly grinding it adds such great crunch and texture to the final product of this larb dish.
Magic ingredient #2: Adding kaffir lime leaf surprisingly highly enhances the taste of this dish. I’ve made this with and without the lime leaf and there’s a noticeable difference. You can absolutely leave it out but if you can get your hands on a few kaffir lime leaves, add them in! Your tastebuds will be delighted.
Magic ingredient #3: As everything in life, this is optional but if someone is recommending it, there’s probably a reason. Make, use, and love your own fermented garlic ginger paste (recipe posted soon!). It not only saves you time with chopping and such, but adds an incredible punch of garlicy-gingery-salty-heaven. I try to always keep this fermented paste on hand in the fridge – just to add to literally anything I can. It’s that good. 😉
Anyway, long story short, this is hands down the best larb I’ve ever had. And hopefully the best larb you’ve ever had once you make it.
Go forth and create.
Mint & Pepper Tofu Larb
- 1 block protein high protein type is best if available
- 2 tbsp rice
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced or grated
- 1/2 inch piece ginger finely minced or grated
- 3 green onions roughly chopped, green and white parts separated
- 3 tbsp fish sauce* see notes below
- 1-2 limes juice and zest
- 1 kaffir lime leaf optional but amazing if you can find one!
- 1 small shallot finely chopped
- 1 Fresno chili pepper (or Thai chili for extra heat) finely chopped
- 1-2 handfuls herbs (mint and cilantro are a must! Chives are also great) roughly chopped
- red pepper flakes
- salt and/or white pepper to taste
- Unpackage the block of tofu and wrap in paper towels or clean dish cloth. Put it on a plate then add something heavy on top to press water out of tofu. Set aside.
- In a large skillet on medium high heat, add uncooked rice. Sautee in dry pan until rice reaches a deep golden color - stirring frequently.
- Remove rice from heat once golden and let cool. When cooled, place rice in a spice grinder until it reaches a rough powder consistency.
- In the same skillet used for rice, add olive oil, pre-heating over medium heat.
- Crumble the tofu into the heated pan. Toss for a few minutes, then add garlic, ginger, and shallot.
- Continue to cook until tofu, garlic, ginger, shallot start to brown - about 4 minutes.
- Add the fish sauce, 1 tsp lime zest, and kaffir lime leaf, if using.
- When tofu looks suitably cooked, slightly golden brown, add the white part of the green onions, herbs of choice (mint, cilantro, chives), and Fresno chili pepper and/or red pepper flakes.
- You're almost done! I promise!
- Add 2 tbsp rice powder, mixing everything together well.
- Plate and top with those green green onion parts and any extra herbs you'd like.
- Throw on a little lime juice and enjoy!