1 (14- or 16-oz) package extra-firm tofu, water poured off
Fine sea salt
3 tablespoons neutral oil (such as canola or peanut)
2/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons minced lemongrass
Scant 2 teaspoons Madras-style curry powder, or a combination of 1 teaspoon ground coriander, scant 3/4 teaspoon garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric 1/4 teaspoon MSG, or 1/2 teaspoon Asian mushroom seasoning or Marmite
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 oz tomato, grated on the largest hole of a box grater (keep juices and seeds)
10 oz medium cremini or white mush
rooms, halved through the stems
1 1/3 cups full-fat unsweetened coconut milk (whisk before measuring)
1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs or dill fronds
Pan-fry the tofu:
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Season with a mounded 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, transfer to a dish towel, and let drain for 10 to 15 minutes.
Set a 12-inch nonstick or carbon-steel skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil. Meanwhile, pat the moisture from the tofu (I use a dry area of the dish towel). When the oil ripples, add the tofu and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning frequently to brown on two or three sides. Set aside to cool.
Cook the aromatics and simmer the curry:
Set a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons neutral oil. When the oil barely ripples, add the onion and a sprinkling of salt and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until richly browned. Turn the heat to medium, then add the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, curry powder, MSG (if using), and cayenne. Stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomato, mushrooms, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. The mixture will condense to half its original volume; splash in water if things stick.
Add 1 cup of the coconut milk, re-cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pan-fried tofu and water to barely cover the solids. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and gently stir in the remaining 1⁄3 cup coconut milk; let the curry rest for 10 minutes, uncovered.
Tweak, garnish, and serve:
Taste the curry and season with additional salt, if needed; splash in water if the flavors are too strong. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the cilantro, transfer to a serving bowl, and crown with the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Ever-Green-Vietnamese: Super-Fresh Recipes, Starring Plants from Land and Sea by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2023 Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House Photographs copyright © 2023 by Aubrie Pick