Tofu & mushroom massaman curry
Things are looking up for tofu and mushrooms. Usually left to play a supporting role while other fancier ingredients get to shine in the spotlight, chefs all over the world are now choosing to cast mushrooms and tofu in leading roles on their menus.
These oft-overlooked and underrated ingredients don’t just make for some surprising culinary magic when paired with rich and hearty spices and sauce; they’re also nutritional powerhouses that are bursting with the kind of good stuff your body needs.
Tofu is a key staple of a vegetarian diet as it’s high in iron, protein and calcium. It’s also low in calories for those watching their intake, and it’s low in fat, which is good for heart health.
Mushrooms are packed full of vitamins as well as being low in fat and sodium. They’re also a source of vitamin B12. This makes them perfect for vegetarians and vegans, as B12 is mostly found in animal products like meat, fish and poultry. This, along with their meaty texture and umami flavour, makes mushrooms an ideal substitute for animal proteins.
Want to try your hand at cooking tasty tofu and mushie-based meals that your friends and family will love so much they’ll beg for seconds? We’ve asked for advice from acclaimed chef and founder of The Spice Tailor, Anjum Anand. Growing up in a vegetarian family meant that Anand learned to appreciate both tofu and mushrooms for their taste and versatility.
“It’s wonderful to have different proteins to cook with,” she says. “And tofu is so quick and easy to use. Mushrooms add texture and are meaty, so I always have some in the fridge.”
Anand’s tofu and mushroom cooking tips
“I cube firm tofu and add it to curries or stir-fries,” Anand says. “I press them lightly to remove excess water from the block first. You can also griddle tofu and sprinkle over some simple spices such as chaat masala [a spice blend that’s spicy, tangy and salty]. Or make a tandoori marinade and grill them in the oven.”
Browning mushrooms will really add to their “meaty” flavour. Anand recommends you get your pan nice and hot and only add a little oil.
“They absorb fat, so will get quite oily if there’s too much in the pan,” she advises. “And don’t overcrowd your pan. The temperature will drop and the mushrooms will stew and boil rather than brown. I let them brown on one side and don’t move them about. Once browned on one side, I turn them over and repeat. Different mushrooms have different depths of flavour. So, depending on the variety, you can season or spice accordingly.”
For home cooks, Anand says the first step in experimenting with mushrooms and tofu should be something like a curry, dhal, biryani or marinade. The Spice Tailor can help boost your creativity in the kitchen with their easy meal kits. We’ve included a simple (and delicious) recipe from The Spice Tailor below to get you started.
Tofu and mushroom “neatball” massaman curry
This recipe is a plant-based comfort food lover’s dream. It combines tofu and mushrooms to create tantalising “neatballs”, served with a rich massaman sauce.
“I’ve always loved meatballs,” Anand says. “I don’t see why vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t be able to enjoy them, too. In India, we have many vegetarian meatball dishes. We used that as inspiration for this Thai-style curry recipe.”
Serves 3-4 (makes 16 balls)
Heat level mild
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
1 pack The Spice Tailor Thai Massaman Curry
200g extra firm tofu, drained
150g oyster mushrooms, cleaned and torn in half
10g fresh coriander, chopped
2 rounded tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
40g green beans, sliced and sautéed in a little oil
40g red peppers, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil and extra for frying
Salt or soy sauce to taste
1. In a frying pan, heat one tablespoon of oil and fry the mushrooms to brown all over. Season and cook for another minute then remove from the pan and set aside.
2. In the same pan, heat half a teaspoon of oil, add the beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the peppers and a little salt and cook for another 2 minutes. Place in a bowl.
3. Place the tofu and half of the cooked mushrooms in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Chop the other half of the mushrooms and add to the bowl along with the coriander, breadcrumbs and tofu mushroom mix. Mix together, season to taste and form into walnut-sized balls. There should be around 16.
4. In a large pan, heat remaining oil and fry the tofu balls, browning all over. Set aside.
5. Add the spices from the spice sachet into the pan and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Then add the massaman paste and coconut sauce from the two pouches and bring to a simmer. Add in the little neatballs and simmer for 2-3 minutes, adding a little water for a thinner consistency if you’re serving with rice.
For more mushroom inspiration, check out australianmushrooms.com.au. The site has some mind-blowingly good recipes, including some from top Aussie chefs.