This is my 100th post! I can’t believe I’ve made it to a century – though as these things always work, I feel at once as if I’ve been doing this forever and like I only started last week. We’ve got into a new rhythm, Mr Lemur and I, of cooking and photographing together, and of categorising meals as either ‘bloggable’ or ‘not bloggable’. The categories can be easy: weekend culinary adventures that start with ambitious shopping lists are always bloggable. When friends come to dinner, they usually have to sit around having their food photographed before they get to eat it. If I cook something I’ve written about before, it is automatically not bloggable, but more ususally not bloggable means too simple to be worth writing up, or too unphotogenic. There are a lot of pastas with beans and greens that don’t make their way into these pages. Sometimes deciding that something might be bloggable feels like an effort when you really just want to slob on the sofa and it’s those nights that finding the energy to cook something nice is really valuable. The effort of organising ingredients, getting out the camera and thinking about what exactly to prepare turns a chore into a creative process – which is why I love cooking in the first place.
I was wondering this week what to make for my 100th post but I’ve been working so late recently that I haven’t had time to plan anything elaborate. So I decided to go back to the kind of Thai cooking that I learned in New York – recipes I’ve been making and playing with for years. This recipe is one of those whose original is lost in the mists of time. I thought I remembered it from a book, but I’ve searched through all my cookbooks and it’s not there. Once upon a time I must have read a recipe for a Thai spicy salad with deep fried tofu skin, and I’ve certainly seem many recipes for Thai fish with raw vegetables. But quite how these things came together in my head I don’t know. What I do know is that the richness of smoked fish and the crispness of fried tofu skin are a marriage made in heaven, especially when you contrast them with significant quantities of ginger, lime and chilies. This is a dish that makes me happy, so I hope it appeals to you, my lovely readers, out there in the blogosphere. Here’s to another 100 posts…
You can make a vegetarian version of this dish by replacing the fish with some cooked green beans or mushrooms – you want something soft to contrast with the crispy tofu. Replace fish sauce with light soy in the dressing and amp up the lime.
Thai crispy tofu skin with smoked mackerel
- 3 skeins of dried tofu skin
- 2 fillets of smoked mackerel
- 1 red pepper
- bunch of cilantro
- 4 shallots
- 8 green chiles
- laege knob of ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 lime
- 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
First you need to soak your dried tofu skin. If you haven’t used this stuff before, don’t be alarmed, it’s fantastic. It comes in two forms: one is flat sheets like lasagna and the other looks like someone took those flat sheets, scrunched them into sticks and folded them in half. You want the scrunchy type for this dish. Put the tofu in a deep dish (I use a lasagna pan for this) and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes. When you take it out it should be soft and floppy. Drain on paper towels to get it as dry as possible, then slice into inch-long sections.
While the tofu is soaking, slice the chilies and put them in your serving bowl. Thinly slice the shallots and add them. Julienne the ginger and add it too.
Now add thinly sliced red pepper, mackerel pulled into chunks, and cilantro.
Make the dressing by pounding the garlic in a mortar and pestle, then add the palm sugar and pound together. Add fish sauce and lime juice to taste.
When everything else is ready, heat the oil in a wok and deep fry the tofu skin pieces in batches until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
When you’re ready to serve, add the tofu to the other ingredients, mix very gently and add dressing. You want to preserve the crispiness of the tofu so eat fast before it goes soggy!
Serves 2 with rice.