Growing up in a little desert town in Southern California, I didn’t have much exposure to cuisines from other cultures. It wasn’t until I moved away to Northern California for college that I was able to explore Vietnamese cuisine.
I still remember trying pho for the first time as a junior at a little family-owned joint in Mountain View. It quickly became a staple in my dinner rotation. I also fell in love with rice vermicelli bowls and banh mi. I created this recipe specifically to use in vegan banh mi a few weeks back.
I rarely cook with lemongrass, but I knew it would add something special to the sandwiches. You can find lemongrass at most Asian markets; I’ve also seen it at my local Whole Foods and Sprouts. It has the most unique bright, almost fruity flavor that pairs beautifully with the ginger and garlic. Add Thai bird chilies or a couple shakes of red pepper flakes to make it spicy.
This marinade is so flavorful and easy to whip together that I made it on back-to-back days, using it in spring rolls the second time around. You can use it as your protein source in so many dishes, and I think the recipe would be great to double for your weekly meal prep, since baked tofu is so fuss-free!
Baked Lemongrass Tofu
- 1 12 oz block extra-firm tofu
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ” thumb ginger peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
- 1-2 minced Thai bird chilies optional
- Drain your tofu, wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and press it under gentle weight (such as a plate stacked with a can of beans or a textbook) for about an hour to drain out as much excess water as possible. This will help it absorb the marinade better.
- Cut your pressed tofu into 1/4” steaks, or into roughly 3/4” cubes.
- Peel off the outer layer of the lemongrass stalk and clean off any dirt. Finely chop the bottom white part of the stalk. (This should yield a few tablespoons of chopped lemongrass.)
- Whisk together lemongrass with remaining ingredients for the marinade. If you don’t mind the texture of the minced ingredients, leave as is. For a smoother option, throw all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.
- Pour your marinate into a shallow pan. Add your tofu and turn to coat evenly. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (although overnight would be ideal), giving the tofu a flip once or twice to ensure they absorb the mixture evenly.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat. Arrange tofu on tray. I like to spoon or brush the extra marinade onto the tofu, but this is optional. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until deep golden brown, flipping about halfway through.
- This tofu is perfect to use in vegan banh mi (sliced into steaks), in vermicelli bowls (cubed), or in spring rolls (sliced into strips).