Chitra's Creative Cuisine: Stir-fried Tofu with Bean Sprouts, Cilantro and Ginger Root

In my upcoming novel, Before We Visit the Goddess, about three generations of women–a grandmother, mother and daughter who love, support and battle each other–Tara the daughter says that she likes cooking things that require only 20 minutes of time, from the chopping board to the table. I often feel that way, and on some of those days I create my own dishes. Today was one such day because I'm getting really busy with pre-publicity for the novel, which is coming out in April 2016. Below is the recipe I cooked up, stir-fried tofu with bean sprouts, cilantro, and ginger. I was really pleased with how this healthy low-carb dish turned out, and I hope you will be, too.

stir fried tofu with bean sprouts and cilantro

Ingredients:  One 16 ounce pack extra firm tofu, 16 ounces bean sprouts, half inch ginger root, grated, quarter cup chopped cilantro, four T peanut sauce, two T soy sauce (more for taste if you like soy sauce), one t Sriracha sauce, 1 T sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder and salt to taste.

Cut the tofu long and thin, as in the photo above. Sauté for two minutes in a nonstick pan. Add all of the seasonings. Sauté for one more minute. Add the bean sprouts. Sauté for one minute. Take off the stove and mix in the cilantro and ginger.  Serve by itself if you want a low-carb dish. Otherwise serve over hot brown rice.

The whole thing took me 10 minutes!

Let me know if you try it and how you like it, and if you have your own favorite 10 to 20 minute dish, please post it below.


Just Having Written

An admired poet and writing teacher, Bob Hass, once told me, "It's hell writing and it's hell not writing. The only happy state is just having written."

Over the years, I've come to experience the truth of the statement. If you're a writer, you have to write. But writing can be hard. The days when inspired beauty flows straight from the brain of God via your computer into the world are few. The rest of the time, it's a lot of staring at the blank screen, or writing a sentence only to delete it, or trying to get into the head of a character who persists in remaining opaque.

Today, though, I'm in a happy state, having completed and turned in to my publisher Simon and Schuster a novel-in-stories. It's about 3 generations of Bengali women, grandmother, mother and daughter, whose lives span two continents (I'll let you guess which two). It's also about the men who love, betray and transform them.  This was a new form for me to work in. Very exciting. Very challenging. I fell in love with it after reading books like Louise Erdritch's Love Medicine, Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. 

We're still working on the title. Possible contenders will soon be posted for a reader poll on my FB page, so please check in a couple weeks.

To celebrate this euphoric state of just having written, I decided to cook. (While I write, my patient, long-suffering husband mostly gets to eat steamed broccoli. On good days I make khichuri, a one-pot wonder containing rice, lentils, an assortment of whatever vegetables are in the frig, and spices. It tastes pretty good--but maybe less so after you've been eating it for a month).

So, here's what I made: Bengali-style Stir-fried Zucchini


Preparation & cooking: 20 minutes

Ingredients: 2  zucchinis, halved lengthways and sliced thin
 vegetable oil for frying
1 and 1/2 tsp of panch phoran, a five-spice mix popular in Bengali cooking, or less to taste

[if there's no Indian store nearby, you can mix your own in this manner:

1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp nigella seed
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
small pinch fenugreek seed (caution: it has a bitter taste)]

2 whole dried chilies
 red chili powder to taste--I use 1/4 spoon
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
a pinch of sugar, or more to taste

Heat oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the panch phoran and whole chilies. When they sputter, add the zucchini pieces and stir for a few minutes. Add the turmeric and red chili powder.Let the zucchini brown a little. Add salt. Lower heat to medium and cover. Stir it every couple of minutes.  When the zucchini is cooked but not mushy, remove cover and make sure the liquid gets absorbed and the zucchini gets golden brown. Stir in the sugar. Remove from heat.

Serve with hot rice and lentils.

Let me know if you liked this.