This soup has a lot of ingredients, so it was a little daunting at first. But let me tell you…this soup is GOOD! And the tofu that is thrown in as a garnish?? Divine. Who would have thought that tofu dredged in cornstarch and fried could be so darn good?? I ended up frying up the whole block of tofu, and I am glad I did. We all kept adding more to our bowls. I left out the chile oil at the end. It would have been too spicy for me and the kids, but in the picture in the magazine, it sure does make it pretty!
Red Lentil Soup with Fried Tofu & Chile Oil
(O Magazine, Jan. 2013)
time needed: 1 hour, 20 min.
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided, plus more for frying
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom (I omitted)
3/4 tsp. turmeric
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 (13 1/2 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/4 cups (1/2 pound) dried red lentils, rinsed
3 (3″) strips lemon peel
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper, plus more to taste
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 pound firm tofu, patted dry and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring a few times, until soft, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add garlic, ginger, ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, and cinnamon; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add coconut milk, lentils, lemon peel strips, and 1 quart water and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Discard lemon peel strips.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender and return to the pot. Add lemon juice, season with 1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. white pepper, plus more to taste, and keep hot.
In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Add red pepper flakes and cumin seeds; when they sizzle, pour into a small, heatproof bowl and set aside.
Wipe out saucepan and add enough oil to come up 1″. Heat oil until shimmering. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. salt. Toss tofu cubes in cornstarch mixture, shaking off excess. Dip a tofu cube into the oil. If it starts to sizzle, add half the tofu to the hot oil and fry over medium heat until pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining tofu cubes.
Ladle soup into bowls. Top with fried tofu and cilantro. Drizzle with reserved chile oil and serve.