I’ve jokingly nicknamed this dish “vegan chicken omelet” because of the chicken-and-egg nature of putting cubes of tofu together with tofu skin (though I suppose you’d need vegan “fysh” sauce to make it truly so). There’s enough textural contrast between the pressed cubes of tofu, the silky sheets of rehydrated tofu skin, and the crunchy nuts and seeds to make this monochromatic dish exciting, and you can further ramp up the excitement with your choice of hot sauce or chile crisp. Serve with jasmine or sticky rice or, for the full carbophobe treatment, cauliflower rice.
- Place the dried tofu skin in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Place a dinner plate over the noodles to keep them submerged and hasten softening. Let soak for at least 1 hour and up to 3 (transfer to refrigerator if you plan to let them soak longer, i.e. while you’re at work).
- Place the block of tofu on a dinner plate lined with paper towels. Wrap the tofu in another layer of paper towels, then stack a few plates or other hefty objects atop the tofu. Don’t go too heavy—the goal is to gradually squeeze out as much water as possible, not to smash the block. Once you’ve extracted as much water as possible, slice the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Drain the soaking tofu skins, squeeze out the excess water, and add to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until all of the water has sizzled away. Add the shallots, garlic, and curry leaves and continue to cook and stir until fragrant, adding another tablespoon or so of oil if the noodles or aromatics begin to stick or scorch. Stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for about five minutes to soften the tofu skin. Fold in the tofu chunks and let simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust as desired with additional lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and/or salt and pepper. Fold in the sesame seeds, garnish with peanuts and chile crisp or hot sauce as desired, and serve.
Laurie Woolever is a writer, editor, and right-hand man to Anthony Bourdain, with whom she co-authored Appetites: A Cookbook in 2016. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the professional culinary program at the French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center), and her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Food & Wine, GQ, Saveur, Dissent, Lucky Peach, and more. Woolever was formerly an editor at Art Culinaire and Wine Spectator. She lives in New York.