In honor of Stella Orechia's upcoming epic 1,000-mile bicycle rides in the Northwest and Burma , Wellbody Blog brings you a tasty recipe for Shan Tofu from northern Myanmar (Burma), a vast mountainous region long known for natural beauty, crushing poverty, ethnic diversity and tasty cuisine rooted in fresh herbs, vegetables and legumes.
A satiny polenta, Shan tofu is made from soaked yellow lentils or a chickpea flour called besan.
Lentils are an excellent source of both protein and iron, providing more than half of a person's daily iron allowance in a 100 gram serving. An inexpensive source of protein in much of the world, lentils pack more protein by weight than most other legumes and nuts, bested only by soybeans and hemp. Lentils contain all but two of the important essential amino acids. Grains have those two missing essential amino acids, so if you eat rice, pasta or bread in the same meal, you'll have a complete protein.
Another plus? Lentils are local. The most important lentil-growing region in the United States is right here in eastern Washington's Palouse region.
This recipe, adapted from Triumph of the Lentil blog, is soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, low fat, nightshade-free, onion- and garlic-free, sugar-free and can be prepared in less than 45 minutes.
Shan Tofu (Soy-free Tofu, Yellow Lentil Polenta)
Makes 4-6 servings
2 1/2 cups chickpea flour (besan), often available in Indian and Central Asian grocery shops
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups cold water
Line or grease a 20x30cm (8×12″ or 9 x 13") pan.
1. Drain the yellow lentils and process into a smooth paste in a food processor or blender. Place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the salt. A little at a time, add 4 C water and stir out the lumps.
OR, if you're using chickpea flour (besan) . . . Place the chickpea flour and salt in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, and squash out any lumps. Add 4 C water a little at a time, stirring out the lumps.
2. Turn on the heat to medium and stir continuously until very thick, as if you're making polenta. This will take between 7 and 15 minutes. If you're using a gas stove it will be quicker; if you're using a smaller diameter saucepan, it will take longer.
As soon as the mixture is very thick, quickly spread it into the prepared pan, pressing to form a flat, even surface (it will set very quickly). Leave to set for at least half an hour before using as tofu. To remove from the pan, first slice into whatever shape you want them to be, and gently lift up. Lining the pan with a silicon baking mat or some baking paper makes it a lot easier to remove.
This will keep in the fridge for up to a week and can be used in all kinds of recipes that call for tofu.
Note: Food stall vendors in northern Myanmar dish up exceptionally tasty, high-protein snacks by deep frying pieces of soft Shan tofu in simmering oil--twice--to create a hot snack that's crispy on the outside and smooth, warm and creamy on the inside. (Click here to watch a terrific video of traditional Shan tofu preparation using innovative low-tech cooking tools.) If deep-fat frying is not part of your healthy diet, modify by lightly sauteeing slices of Shan Tofu in extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil and eat atop a large plate of greens. Or, you can skip frying altogether and enjoy the fresh smooth tofu on salad.