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Tofu Moqueca (Moqueca de Tofu)

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been experimenting with vegan cuisine since I went on a 21-day vegan/gluten-free cleanse. I have also previously shared how wonderful I felt during and right after the cleanse: my energy levels increased tremendously, I dropped a few pounds, and even my thoughts were sharper… I just felt really great overall! 

The cleanse is long over, but it made me decide to eat vegan at least a couple of times a week (I cannot do more than that because I get super bored!!). So, evidently, a few recipes have been developed along the way (and I promise to become better at posting them).

Since I started this process, I have tried many vegan and plant-based recipes and, in my humble opinion, not all recipes are necessarily vegan adaptable. Be aware when you see titles like “Vegan Alfredo” or “Cashew Ricotta”. Some recipes and some cuisine genres (especially Italian and French) should be left alone.

There are vegan adaptations that simply won’t work because either the dish will taste terrible, or because the core of the recipe will completely be changed in a way that it won’t taste anything like what the recipe name states (Cashew Ricotta… Really?!).

Now, some cuisines organically and abundantly use ingredients that are not always derived from animals. I found that Indian cuisine is an absolute vegan champion. Other cuisines, such as Thai, Japanese and Brazilian are also very adaptable to vegan. 

Moqueca is one of the most traditional dishes in Brazil. The classic recipe uses seafood that is smothered in creamy coconut milk, vegetables and herbs. Red Palm oil (aka dendê oil) gives beautiful color and an exotic touch to the stew. So, I decided to try swapping the seafood for tofu and, without having to change any other ingredients, I could come up with a vegan version of a delicious classic Brazilian recipe. Does it taste the same? No. But it still tastes great!

So, if you are vegan - or if you just like to experiment with vegan and plan-based recipes - I can stand behind this one! 

Tofu Moqueca is approved. Enjoy!

PS: I am going to experiment with the use of jackfruit next. Stay tuned.

Tofu Moqueca (Moqueca de Tofu)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 block (12 to 14 ounces) tofu, firm
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 large onion finely sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 or 2 jalapenos seeded and finely sliced
  • 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 14 ounces can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons red palm oil (dendê oil) See Cook's Note*
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions:

1) Arrange a stack of three or four folded paper towels on a plate or board. Place the tofu block on the paper towels and put another layer of five or six on top of the tofu. Put another plate or a cutting board on top of the paper towels and then weigh it down with heavy books or cans (I used a large container of salt - see picture below). Every half-hour or so, drain the water that has been pressed out of the tofu. The draining process should take 60 to 90 minutes.

2) Cut tofu into ½ inch cubes and set aside.

3) Place coconut oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onions, green and red bell peppers and jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft; about 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic, tomato, paprika, cumin, turmeric and coriander. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for two additional minutes.

4) Fold in the tofu, coconut milk and dende oil. Once coconut milk starts to seamer, reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in cilantro and lime juice. Serve immediately over jasmine rice, with extra wedges of lime on the side (optional).

Tofu Moqueca 2

Cook’s Note:

*Red palm oil (or dendê oil) is a traditional ingredient in the Afro-Brazilian cuisine. It is not the same as palm kernel oil. Dendê oil adds a beautiful redish-orange color to the dish and exquisite earthy undertone flavors. It tastes horrendous by itself, but when combined with other ingredients - such as coconut milk and vegetables - it gives a delicious and exotic flavor to the recipe.

Red Palm oil can be purchased online, at Whole Foods, or at Latin and Afro grocery stores.

Tofu Moqueca Presser

It's important to press the tofu to remove as much water as possible. That way, it will absorb more of the sauce and become more flavorful.

Tofu Moqueca Peppers

First, add the coconut oil and stir in the vegetables for a few minutes.

Tofu Moqueca Coconut Milk

Then, add the tofu, coconut milk and red palm oil. That's it. Finish with lime juice and cilantro and you have an exotic vegan meal on the table in less than 30 minutes (if you press the tofu ahead of time of course).



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