The first time I ever had Indian food left quite an impression upon me. Not the food, but the experience. There was this amazing restaurant in Manhattan. It was called Nirvana and for me, at the tender age of 20 or so, it seemed just that.
Nirvana was located across the street from Central Park. All we could see from the street was a plaque on the building that let us know we were at the right address. Once we went into the building and walked toward the elevator, there was a man dressed in full Indian garb waiting there to escort us upstairs. I remember he was tall, dressed in white and looked like a character in an exotic movie.
The elevator went up for what seemed like a thousand floors and when the doors opened, I was transported to a Bollywood movie. Well, I didn’t know about Bollywood back then but that’s how I would describe it now.
The restaurant was huge, covered in dramatic carpeting, even on the walls. Huge picture windows held a gorgeous view of the city. Music played and everything was magical. For someone who had never traveled anywhere, I felt like I was in a fairy tale.
It’s too bad I didn’t have an exotic palate back then because I didn’t want to eat Indian food. I didn’t think I’d like it. Wow, I wish I could go back and have a do-over. I ordered tandoori chicken, probably because it was recommended to me, probably because it was the closest dish to something I would find familiar and like. I don’t remember whether I liked it or not but I never forgot Nirvana.
Later, when I truly loved Indian food, tandoori chicken was my least favorite dish. The flavor was good but it always tasted dry. I wanted to make a vegan version of that dish – not the dry one, of course, but I wanted those spicy flavors. It took me 3 tries to get it just right. I had the flavors down but I wanted to find the best way to get those blackened marks on the tofu while not letting it dry out. I baked, I broiled, I fried and finally I figured it out.
Not only does the Tandoori-Style Tofu taste delicious – spicy and moist – but the leftover marinade helps make an amazing sauce that can be ladled over the tofu, if desired, and over rice or potatoes.
This looks exotic but it’s really quick and easy to make. My Tandoori-Style Tofu with Spiced Tomato-Yogurt Sauce certainly brings me back to Nirvana. Enjoy!
Tandoori-Style Tofu with Spiced Tomato-Yogurt Sauce
I block extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
Juice of one lemon
For the marinade
2 Tbs. non-dairy yogurt, plain
1 Tbs. canola oil
½ red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
4 tsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground ginger or 1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. dried cardamom
½ tsp. Kosher salt
A dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
For the Spiced Tomato Yogurt Sauce
2 Tbs. canola oil or vegan butter
2 Tbs. chickpea flour
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2-3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
To make the Tandoori-Style Tofu: After the tofu has been pressed and drained, cut it into your desired shapes. I cut the block in half, then cut each half into slices and then into triangles. Place the slices into a shallow bowl. Cover the tofu with the juice of one lemon and sprinkle with salt. Set aside while you prepare the marinade.
Combine all the marinade ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick paste. Pour the marinade over the tofu and with a pastry brush, make sure the slices are covered with marinade on both sides. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place a cooling rack or a slotted broiler rack over a baking sheet that is covered with foil or parchment paper. Shake the excess marinade off and place the pieces of tofu onto the rack. Reserve the marinade in the bowl. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet around half-way through. You want the tofu to develop a crust with a charred look. Turn the broiler on and let the tofu char for a minute or two. While the tofu is baking, prepare the sauce.
To make the Spiced Tomato Yogurt Sauce: In a saucepan, heat the oil (or melt the butter) over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk until all the flour is combined. Let cook for a minute so you don’t get a raw flour taste. Add the reserved marinade to the saucepan along with the tomato paste. Mix it well. Add 2-3 cups of broth, whisking continuously, until everything is combined and you have a smooth sauce. Lower the heat, cover the pan and let it cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. If you want the sauce to be extra silky, you can whisk in another Tbs. of butter at the end.
To serve: Serve the tandoori-style tofu topped with the spiced tomato-yogurt sauce.
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This recipe is now one of our favorites! It’s easy and the sauce is so good, I love to smother the rice with it! Thanks again for another fabulous recipe!
Yay, I’m so glad you love it. xoxo