Chewy Tofu In An Apricot, Chipotle and Tamarind Sauce: Vegan Mexican

I like to think I was Mexican in another life. I love traveling through this warm and beautiful country, its food appeals most to my tastebuds (after Indian, of course), and I even look a little Mexican with my olive skin and dark hair. Ever so often someone speaking Spanish approaches me on the street to ask for directions, or a salesperson tries to make me feel comfortable by breaking into what they assume must be my native language. They even look a little incredulous when I explain to them that I don’t speak a word of Spanish.

Lately my kitchen has started looking a lot like a Mexican one too. I’ve packed my refrigerator and my kitchen cupboards with fresh and dry chillies of every kind, I’ve been confounding Desi with words like “piloncillo,” “jamaica,” and “achiote,” and I’ve been dropping hints several times each day about that tortilla press I don’t have to use up all the masa flour sitting in the pantry.


Part of the reason why I’ve become an even greater fan of Mexican food in recent weeks is this very addictive PBS show, Pati’s Mexican Table, where the chef, Pati Jinich, shares recipes from her childhood in Mexico. This relatively new show has edged out my other PBS favorite, Rick Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate at a Time, because while Bayless’s show is quite wonderful, his recipes appear rather sophisticated since they are adapted to suit American tastes. Pati– who grew up in Mexico and is now a fellow Washingtonian– creates what seem to be truly authentic, often rustic recipes that you can actually imagine folks in Mexico cooking up in their kitchens for dinner.

A lot of the recipes in Pati’s Mexican Table contain animal ingredients, but the sauces and bases also pack a lot of flavor that comes from the plant-based ingredients that go into these dishes (she does a great job describing these flavors with vivid imagery). Recently, I watched her cook up chicken with tamarind, chipotle peppers, and apricots. The sauce sounded so flavorful that the chicken only appeared an unnecessary intrusion.

So I went into my kitchen and got cooking.

I got a block of firm tofu, squeezed the water out of it, then baked it to chewy perfection.

I soaked some tamarind, then separated the incredibly tangy water and added some piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) to make the base of my sauce.

I chopped up some gorgeously orange dried apricots, and scooped out some smoky and fiery chipotle chili sauce.

Dinner was amazing. This sauce is perfect drizzled over some rice, and you could very well serve it some spicy Mexican rice.

Oh, I feel so Mexican right now. Enjoy!

Chewy Tofu in Apricot, Chipotle and Tamarind Sauce

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 block firm or extra-firm tofu. Press out most of the water by swaddling the block of tofu, then placing in a colander. Place a weight on it, like a saucepan, and leave alone for an hour for most of the water to drain out. Spray a baking pan lightly with some oil, place the tofu on it, and spray the top lightly with some oil. Bake in a 400-degree oven 30 minutes, then flip over and bake another 20 minutes. Let the tofu cool, then cut it into 3/4-inch cubes.

1 tsp olive or other vegetable oil

4 cups mushrooms, preferably mixed for more texture. I used cremini and shiitake. Chop them into fairly large chunks.

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Salt to taste

3/4 cup dried apricots, sliced

1 recipe tamarind sauce (recipe below)

2 tsp sauce from a can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce

2 tbsp apricot preserves

Heat a saucepan and add the oil. Add the mushrooms, pepper and salt and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms start to caramelize and turn golden, about 10 minutes.

Add all the remaining ingredients– the tofu, apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind sauce, and adobo sauce. Add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the apricots are quite soft.

Add salt to taste. Serve hot.

Tamarind Sauce

Ingredients:

1 large lemon-size ball of tamarind soaked in 2 cups of boiling water for about half an hour. Strain out the solids and reserve the liquid.

1/2 cup piloncillo, grated (this unrefined sugar is separated at birth from jaggery a popular sweetener in Indian cooking). Use brown sugar if you don’t have this.

1 tbsp lime juice

Salt to taste

Place the tamarind liquid, piloncillo, lime juice and salt in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. The liquid will be thick and syrupy.

Nutrition estimate per serving: Calories 172, Total Fat  3.3 grams, Cholesterol 0 mg, Potassium 591.4 mg, Dietary Fiber 3.4 grams, Sugar 21.3 grams, Protein 6.4 grams

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Hi Vaishali…I am the newest member of the Vegan Tribe :) and so far i am loving it. It all began with the seminar i attended given by Dr. Nandita Shah on Reversing Diabetes. I was scanning the web for vegan recipes and i hit upon your site. I have to thank you for all the lovely recipes and the substitites for eggs, chicken and meat. Must congratulate you on a job well done. Looking forward to many more healthy and hard-to-resist ideas. My regards… Raees (Kingdom of Bahrain)

    • says

      Hi Raees, welcome, and congratulations on joining the vegan tribe. :) How wonderful is Nandita? I am always awed by her ability to inspire so many people to adopt healthier eating habits.
      I am glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll find the recipes useful. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

  2. says

    Hi, this looks amazing an I’d love to try it. Two questions: I have a jar of tamarind paste so far unopened. I’ve never cooked with tamarind before, how much should I substitute for the soaked tamarind water? Also, I like mushrooms but my boyfriend is not a fan. Could you please suggest another vegetable I could sub that would go with these flavours? Thanks!

    • says

      Yona, the tamarind paste is very concentrated, so use just 1 tbsp of that. Mix it with two cups of water and add sugar and salt, then reduce. As for the mushrooms, you can substitute green bell peppers or potatoes. Eggplants would work, but you’d need to increase the cooking time a little so they get really tender.

    • says

      Rajee, that’s good to know. Do you make chapatis in it too? I love rolling out chapatis– such a stress reliever– but I wondered if the tortilla press would double up in a pinch?

    • says

      That was my intent as well when I bought it and my first try was on chapati dough but unfortunately it doesnt work well. I guess the roti/phulka dough is a bit on the hard side though I havent yet tried playing around with the dough consistency. Do let me know if something works out for you.

  3. Kris G says

    This looks great–I’m sure I won’t be able to find fresh apricots, though. How many dried would you suggest using?

  4. Gary says

    Vaishali, I can’t wait to make this recipe. I, too, am a big fan of Mexican food. Having been in Phoenix for the last 32 years, I’ve enjoyed some of the BEST Mexican food in the U.S, both in restaurants and from my friends’ traditional home cooking. I am happy to say I don’t ever remember a time where I thought Taco Bell was real Mexican food!
    In the last five years or so, my love of Indian food has grown – especially after going to a South Indian Vegetarian buffet where I learned that Indian food doesn’t begin and end with Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala! Since then, I have tried to broaden my horizons, specifically in vegetarian/vegan cooking. This is what led me to your site!
    One thing I’ve noticed is how similar Mexican and Indian foods can be: cumin, tamarind, cilantro, chilis, etc. I sometimes slip into a fantasy of opening a Mexican/Indian fusion restaurant. Can you imagine a samosa filled with green chili, sweet corn and masa, served with a tamarind/chipotle sauce?? How about a tamale filled with aloo matar instead of the traditional pork? Or refried beans made from chickpeas? While I haven’t tried those yet, I have made a basic curry using jicama and nopalitos (edible cactus found in most grocery stores around here)! And just tonight I made poha with hominy and peas.
    Sorry to ramble on, but I was just so excited to see a Mexican recipe here today! Thanks! Can’t wait to make this one.

    • says

      Gary, you read my mind. Indo-Mex fusion would be mindblowing — I could taste that samosa you described. And yes, the basic ingredients are so similar — when I first bought piloncillo, for instance, I was surprised to find that it was exactly like jaggery (and a little disappointed, I admit– I wanted to discover something new. :)) The biggest difference I see is that Indian cuisine is not as dependent on meat and cheese as Mexican cuisine is– although in Mexico itself there’s quite a lot of vegetarian cuisine to be found.

  5. says

    That looks so amazingly tasty in its dark brown reddish glaze. Looks incredibly hearty too; I’m sure any carnivorous friend wouldn’t care this was tofu. Wish I had this on my table P:

  6. Ellen L says

    This looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it. Sometimes I think I don’t properly appreciate Mexican food—perhaps had too many gloppy “Speedy Gonzales” specials at bad Mexican restaurants. Bet I will love this. Interesting that both Mexicans and Indians use tamarind.

  7. says

    wow what a deicious looking bowl of food…..slurrpp….first time here…and so glad I stopped by….lovely collection of recipes….thanks for sharing :)

  8. says

    Vaishali,

    I love Mexican food, so this is something I have to try soon. I used to love watching cooking shows and love Rick Bayless’s Mexico, one plate a time. I do not believe I have seen Pati’s Mexican table yet, I have to check it out.

    With kids, lately, we are so much in to Dora and Sesame streets, I miss my adult shows such as master piece and cooking shows in PBS.

    Did I tell you, I always feel hungry after reading here? Desi’s amazing pictures adds to your beautiful recipe and story telling.

    Preeti

  9. says

    This looks amazing! I’m Mexican, but I often feel like I was Indian in another life ;) Indian food is my favorite cuisine, and India is the country I would most like to visit. I even tried teaching myself Hindi as a young teen! Sometimes people assume I’m Indian, too.

    Funny how you experience the opposite.

    • says

      Paulina, that’s amazing you tried to teach yourself Hindi– I must admit I’ve tried to teach myself Spanish too, and I realized that it works best when I’m actually in Mexico, trying to find my way there. :)

  10. says

    Vaishali, I made this today with eggplant (I happened to have it on hand). It is out of control good. Seriously. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!

  11. says

    Hi Vaishali, Amazing blog. Very rarely we get to know vegan recipes which are international (non-indian). Happy to follow you. Lastly, this dish is also awesome.

  12. says

    This looks so delicious, I plan to try making it for a dinner party on Sunday. I am in Petworth, DC and wondering where I might find the tamarind and piloncillo?

    • says

      Genie, there are a few good markets in Langley Park in Maryland, including one at the junction of University and New Hampshire boulevards. You can buy tamarind and piloncillo at any of those.

  13. Anonymous says

    LOVE this recipe….I am going to make it for my daughter in law who is vegan but also on Weight Watchers and I KNOW she will ask me about the grams of carbs in this recipe so she can figure the “point value” per serving. I suppose with the sweetness of the fruit, etc. carbs may be high….any idea?

    • says

      Anonymous, yes, there might be some carbs from the piloncillo and the fruit, but those are good carbs and not likely to be a big weight-loss obstacle.

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