Quarantine has really changed how we cook and eat, hasn’t it? For one thing, we are just doing so much more of it. (Raise your hand if you made sourdough bread for the first time in your life?) People used to dining out several times a week, grabbing breakfast and lunch on the go, are suddenly becoming reacquainted with their kitchens. And not just for dinner, now we have to plan meals for the whole day. And if you have kids home with you all day, every day, it’s…..a lot. It can start to feel like you’re running a mini-restaurant.
You also want to avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store, so there is a new interest in maintaining a well stocked pantry, and planning easy meals around it. We are all desperately searching for fast, tasty, affordable meals that use what we already have on hand.
A Perfect Pantry Meal
My Lemongrass Tofu Rice Salad really fits the bill. I always have rice in my pantry, and if I’ve planned ahead I have leftover rice in the fridge. Likewise, I have my trusty tub of minced lemongrass in the freezer. Tofu is readily available, and has a very long shelf life. It also happens to be a great source of inexpensive protein. The only non pantry items the recipe calls for are fresh herbs and scallions, which I always stock up on during my weekly grocery shopping trip.
This lemongrass rice salad is just as good warm as it is cold. So you can enjoy it warm after cooking for dinner one night, and then eat it straight from the fridge the next day for lunch. You are now Quarantine Cooking Master. And because we are calling it salad, it automatically becomes a virtuous and healthy meal. At least I think that’s how that works.
For this recipe I use tofu cutlets, which have already been lightly fried. It’s a super convenient product available at Asian markets, but you can also use the extra firm tofu available at the grocery store and just cube it and fry it up in some oil yourself before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. (Or you can skip that step entirely but be sure to cook out some of the liquid in the tofu or the dish will taste a little watery).
If you are using leftover rice, first take a moment to congratulate yourself on being so smart and organized and thrifty. Then, gently reheat it in the microwave because refrigerated rice can be hard and clumpy. This salad works best with long or medium grain rice which is less sticky and starchy than short grain. But again, make do with what you have on hand. This salad won’t let you down.
A zesty sauce
The best part of this salad is the sauce. I love nuoc cham, the famous Vietnamese dipping sauce, so much that I don’t think it should be confined to just dipping. It enlivens and brightens everything it touches. This has the citrusy flavors of Nuoc Cham that really pairs well with the rice and makes it mouthwatering. If you want to make this salad vegan, you can substitute the fish sauce with either soy sauce, or a combination of soy sauce and coconut aminos.* (Cant get enough nuoc cham in your life? Try it here, here, and here!)
Get your ingredients ready
Because the actual cooking portion of this recipe is so quick, you want to have your ingredients prepped before you begin. So chop your scallions, herbs, and lemongrass if you are using fresh, and juice your limes. This is the perfect time to take out all those cute little prep bowls you bought but never used.
Heat up your pan
So when you’re ready, everything is at your finger tips. Once your pan is hot, add your scallions and lemongrass for a minute or so, add the tofu, and then pour in your sauce ingredients in a quick fashion, just like you are filming your own cooking show.
The tofu gets cooked for a minute, just to heat it up and bathe it in the delicious sauce, and then you mix it with your rice and fresh herbs, and you’re done!
And that’s it
A fresh meal, with lots of flavor and textures. The best part? It’s cooked in under 5 minutes with ingredients you already have on hand. I hope you make this tonight, and enjoy its bright and lively flavor as much as my family does.
If you make our Lemongrass Tofu Rice Salad, we want to know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag us in your photos, @funkyasiankitchen. Show us the goods!Print
A bright, citrusy rice salad made with pantry ingredients in no time!
2 Tablespoons oil
2 stalks lemongrass, hard outer leaves peeled and the top half cut off and discarded (or 3 Tablespoons of frozen minced lemongrass)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 scallions, sliced
4 cups cooked long grain rice (jasmine, basmati, or anything not short and sticky)
1 cup mint shredded
¾ cup cilantro leaves chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves (hard stem in the back removed)
4 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons fish sauce (substitute soy sauce or a combination of soy sauce and coconut aminos for vegetarians)
1–6.5 oz package fried tofu cutlet (you can substitute a half container of firm tofu and fry it first or use it the way it is)
- Open the package of tofu and rinse it off under running water. Cut it in half horizontally, then lengthwise, and then into thin ¼ inch strips from the short end of the block. Set aside.
- Trim the hard bottom ¼” of the lemongrass and whack it with the side of your knife to expose more of the inside. Mince it finely and set it aside.
- Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Add the oil, lemongrass, crushed red pepper, and scallion. Cook for 2-3 mins taking care not to burn the aromatics. Add the tofu and stir-fry for a minute.
- Add the lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce. Stir to coat the tofu with the sauce, cook for a minute, and turn off the heat.
- Pour the tofu into a large bowl, add the rice, mint, cilantro, and lime leaves. Use a fork or clean hands (if you can tolerate the heat) to gently toss the mixture to combine it.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with a little more fish sauce, sugar, or lime juice as needed.
- Serve the salad warm or chill and serve cool.
- Make ahead: you can make the tofu ahead of time and keep it separate from the rice and herbs until ready to serve. Refrigerated rice can be hard and chalky so make sure to reheat the rice gently in a microwave if using leftover rice.
Keywords: lemongrass rice tofu vegan bowls make-ahead