coconut braised tofu [tahu bacem]

tofu bacem

When I was little, I was an extremely picky eater. Practically every single vegetable is off the list – except for potatoes disguised as french fries (because once they do, they’re just not vegetables anymore..) I would eat eggs.. but the white part only. All types of meat are banned from my belly except for crispy chicken skin and funnily enough, milkfish. And everytime someone ordered pizza, I would be seen nibbling the crust away, and only the crust (much to everyone else’s enjoyment). After a few more years, I would gradually learn to appreciate the bread, without the topping (still much to everyone’s enjoyment). I survived on a diet of plain white rice and prawn crackers. What a weird (and downright skinny) kid I must’ve been right? So, except for the occasional crispy chicken skin and milkfish, where did I get my proteins you ask me?

Yup, the answer is TOFU (and tempeh, but that’s another story). When all else fails, my grandmother would make me this as a last minute attempt (sorta) of getting some food down my throat. First you braise the tofu in coconut water and some palm sugar. You let that simmer until all the liquid has evaporated and absorbed by the tofu. Then in a little oil, you fry the tofu, giving it a caramelised crust. What’s not to love?

Coconut Braised Tofu – Tahu Bacem

Improved on 27 May 2013

serves 4-6

  • 600 gr firm tofu (I used tau kwa)
  • 500 ml coconut water
  • 50 gr palm sugar, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp tamarind water (made by mixing tamarind pulp with warm water)
  • 5 red asian shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground roughly with a mortar and pestle
  • salt, to taste
  • vegetable oil, for pan frying


TO BRAISE THE TOFU: In a large pan, mix coconut water with palm sugar, tamarind water, shallots, garlicand coriander. Let the sugar dissolve over medium heat. Sprinkle salt and adjust. Put tofu carefully on the bottom of the pan and  cook over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 1 minute. Then immediately turn the heat to low and let simmer uncovered until nearly all the liquid has evaporated. It will take around an hour or so. So be patient. Do NOT be tempted to crank up the heat. You will lose huge flavours if you do this. If you can get a pan big enough to accommodate all the tofu so that they all touch the bottom surface of the pan, use it by all means. If not, try to move them around once in a while during cooking time.

When there is only little (caramelised) liquid left, turn over each tofu and let cook for another 2-3 minutes, making sure that they don’t burn. In another pan, heat oil over medium heat. FRY TOFU BRIELY until it seals the caramelisation from the cooking liquid. Serve immediately.


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