There is so much that's wrong with eggs today. I am not going to bash egg-eaters here: I have two in my home, despite my best efforts, because there's something about eggs that some people seem to just love. Jay came to us rather addicted to eggs which he calls his favorite food, and Desi eats them occasionally for breakfast because "they're easy to make." But even with all the meticulous attention we pay to buying eggs cage-free, all of the news out there on the abuse of egg-laying hens makes my skin crawl each time I see eggs in my refrigerator.
In recent months, with a six-year-old to convince (hard, trust me) about the redundancy of eggs, I have redoubled my efforts to try and make vegan versions of foods with egg as the central ingredient. It's easy with baked goods: Jay can never tell the difference in the waffles, pancakes, vegan cupcakes and cakes I make for him. But with foods where the egg is the centerpiece, it's not an easy win.
I've had some successes, like with my Tofu Egg Curry, which Jay loved. In fact, the first words out of his mouth when he ate a piece of tofu "egg" (he first thought it was cheese) in the curry were: this tastes like eggs!
And that's exactly what he said again when he tasted this Tofu Egg Biryani. Before he guzzled it all down, tofu and all. Which is something, given that on his scale of favorite foods, tofu is directly opposite eggs.
Tofu makes a great egg substitute for many reasons:
- It is high in protein, just like eggs.
- Like eggs, it doesn't need much cooking time, just enough to absorb the flavors.
- It lacks the cholesterol in eggs-- huge bonus points for tofu!
- It has a similar texture to that of cooked egg whites, especially when poached.
For this recipe I coated the tofu with some spices and chickpea flour and shallow-fried it so it got a lovely, golden crust. If you are a fence-sitter on tofu, cooking it this way will turn you into a fan.
I know there's a lot of discussion out there about tofu's pros and cons, and each time I post a tofu recipe I am sure to get someone griping about soy. But the truth is, most foods are okay in moderation, and tofu is far healthier than many other things you can put in your stomach, eggs included. So sit back and enjoy the recipe.
Egg Biryani, without the eggs
- For the biryani rice:
- 1 cup long-grain rice like basmati, soaked in cold water for at least 30 minutes, then drained
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 pods of green cardamom
- 2 pods of brown cardamom
- 1- inch stick of cinnamon
- 1 tsp caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
- 1 tbsp biryani masala powder some of these can by spicy, so adjust per your taste
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 green serrano chilies optional-- you already have some heat from the biryani masala
- 1/2 cup mint leaves finely chopped
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves finely chopped
- Cashew "yogurt" made by blending together 1/4 cup cashew nuts and 1/2 cup water with juice of 1/2 large lemon
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- For the tofu "eggs"
- 1 12- oz block of extra-firm tofu cut into small cubes
- 1/4 tsp biryani masala
- 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 1/8 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 cup chickpea powder or besan
- Oil to shallow-fry the tofu
- Salt to taste
- Make the biryani rice:
- Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the bay leaves, both types of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and caraway seeds to the oil and saute until the bay leaves turn color just slightly.
- Add the onions and continue to cook, sauteing, until golden spots appear on the onions.
- Add the ginger garlic paste, saute for about 30 seconds, then add the mint and coriander leaves
- Stir-fry the mint and coriander. Add the biryani masala and the cashew yogurt.
- Stir-fry until the yogurt is rather dry, then add the rice and salt to taste. Stir to coat the rice with the masalas, and then add 1 1/2 cups of hot water.
- Let the rice cook on an open flame until most of the water is absorbed. Then cover with a lid, turn the flame to the absolute lowest setting, cover with a lid, and let the rice steam for another 15 minutes.
- Turn off the stove and let the rice stand for 10 minutes at least before opening.
- Make the tofu "eggs":
- Place all of the tofu egg ingredients except the oil in a bowl. Toss the tofu well with the spices and besan, taking care not to break the tofu.
- Heat oil in a large skillet or griddle. There should be enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Don't worry, if you wait until the oil is heated to the right temperature, the tofu won't absorb the oil. The way to do this is to place a tiny amount of whatever you are frying right into the saucepan. If it sizzles immediately, you are good to go.
- Place the tofu in the saucepan in a single layer. If the saucepan is too crowded, do it in two batches.
- Let the tofu cook over medium-high flame until the underside is golden. With a wide spatula, flip the tofu pieces so they cook on all sides.
- Remove to a paper-towel-lined dish.
- Add the tofu to the cooked rice and toss gently with a fork to mix.
- Garnish with more coriander, if you wish. Serve hot with a vegan raita.