This is my extra special Tofu in Singapore chilli sauce. Singapore chilli sauce is usually served with crab. The sauce is deep red in colour and it’s bright, sweet, salty and umami all at once. It could be the most perfect sauce for Tofu ever.
The Singapore Chilli Sauce legend
I’ve called it Singapore chilli because that’s just what it is. Singapore chilli crab without the crab! Just add Tofu for the most delicious meat free main course or even a side dish.
My Chilli Tofu recipe is a play on the famous Singapore chilli crab, one of the most famous seafood dishes in Asia. You will not be missing that crab though as the crunchy coated Tofu soaks up the flavour of the sauce.
Original Singapore chilli coats stir-fried crab pieces in a rich sweet red sauce that is made with a host of ingredients that include the addition of tomato ketchup, chilli, ginger and soy and usually finished with egg. It’s often thickened with cornflour too but I’ve skipped this step to get a more saucy result.
The original version was created in 1950, by a street seller and it became so famous on the streets of Singapore she opened a restaurant, Palm Beach Seafood that serves it to this day, 61 years later. A chef at Singapore’s Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, tweaked it to lessen the sweetness and this version is also still available today.
Sinagpore Chilli Sauce
Despite the name, there’s not a lot of heat in the Singapore chilli base so I often add fresh chopped chillis when serving or add sriracha chilli sauce to heat it up a bit. Sriracha sauce has no sugar so it is a good heat without adding sweetness.
My version is vegetarian so I have skipped the fish paste base and I have replaced it with nutritional yeast flakes and extra soy to add a bit of umami depth. For a vegan version, you will need to omit the egg added at the very end.
If you have never had fried tofu you will be surprised at how texturally delicious it can be. Soft tofu with crunchy outsides smothered in rich sauce is without a doubt something you need to try. I have added water chestnut batons to this dish at the end and these add a nutty crunch. What ARE you waiting for? This is how you make it….
Making the chilli sauce
The base of this sauce is like many base pastes. It has some simple ingredients but cooked off first before adding the final bits builds the flavour and mouthfeel of the sauce.
The sauce is cooked over medium heat being stirred constantly. Add all of the sauce ingredients and stir well. Season with extra soy or vinegar to bring up the flavour.
What type of tofu should I use?
I use a tofu that is firm enough to hold together but soft enough inside to be creamy. I notice there are as many names for tofus as there are producers of the stuff. The one below is called “classic”. Steer clear of hard and silken tofu and you should be ok.
If you like this you might also like:
Sweet and Sour Braised Eggplant
Date caramel Tart with crumb crust
Tofu Singapore Chilli
Chilli base paste
- 200 gm onion or 1 large
- 6 each red chillis long ones| deseeded
- 6 cloves garlic
- 20 gm tomato ketchup (sauce)
- 1 bunch coriander ONLY roots and stems washed very well, set aside the leaves
- 60 ml vegetable oil 1/4 cup | 2 oz
To finish the sauce
- 30 gm sugar white or caster | 2 tablespoons |1 oz
- 60 ml tomato ketchup (sauce) 1/4 cup | 2 oz
- 250 ml passata tomato puree| 1 cup | 8 1/2 oz
- 60 ml soy, light 2 Tablespoons | 1.4 oz
- 250 ml vegetable stock or 1 cup of water and a veg stock cube | 8.5 oz
- 30 gm nutritional yeast flakes non vegetarians can use 2 Tablespoons blachan toasted| 1 oz
- 40 ml rice vinegar or similar | 2 Tablespoons | 1.4 oz
- 1 whole egg beaten
Tofu and vegatables for garnish
- 1 bunch coriander leaves (stems)
- 50 gm water chestnuts sliced into matchstick shape | alternatively use bean sprouts
- 150 gm flour, gluten free, plain 1 cup | 5 oz
- 250 ml vegetable oil 1 cup | 8 oz
- 50 gm shallots sliced green onions | 1/2 cup | 1.7oz
Sauce base paste and finishing the sauce
- Combine the onion, garlic, ketchup, deseeded red chillis and coriander roots. Puree these ingredients in a food processor or blender. You could also chop them very very finely with a knife or pound in a pestle and mortar.
- Heat a deep frypan or medium sized thick bottom pot. Add 1/4 cup of oil. ** see below. And add the base paste. As it heats stir it to cook it through evenly and keep stirring. Cook the paste on a medium heat until it has turned a golden light brown colour and a lot of the water is cooked out
- Add the sugar and the extra tomato sauce. Cook this until the paste looks a little shiny (it will look like this as the sugar will be melted). This should take about 3 minutes
- Add the remaining ingredients. The Passata, stock, soy, nutritional yeast and vinegar. Stir well. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste and add salt and extra vinegar, if needed. Gradually stir in the beaten egg forming streaks through the sauce (***optional)
- The sauce is now made and can be set aside and kept warm for use now or make it and keep it for another day.
- Dip each square of tofu into seasoned (lightly salted) gluten free flour and shake off the excess. Leave on a plate while the oil is heated
- Use a wide frypan and add oil to reach 4 cm deep (1 1/2 inches). Once the oil is hot add the tofu ( in batches if needed). Cook turning on all sides until golden. Drain on paper.
- Finely slice the shallots into rings and cut the water chestnuts into julienne matchsticks.
- Serve the tofu on a plate and pour over the sauce. Garnish with green onion, water chestnuts and coriander leaves. Alternatively, you could also put the tofu into the sauce and coat well and serve on individual plates with the garnish. This is great served with rice.
- It is important when cooking curry pastes that they need a good amount of oil. Without the oil the paste will burn and turn bitter before the flavour develops. Most curry pastes require this oil to also carry the flavour and produce a silky mouth feel.
- The paste will be quite strong when you are frying and may make you cry. I was taught to wear sunglasses in one of the kitchens I worked in.
- Add extra sliced chilli to serve or if you like it hot add some sriracha sauce to the finished sauce
- This recipe has nutritional yeast added. This ingredient adds a lovely salty almost cheesy flavour that is a replacement to “blachan” a prawn paste often used when making this sauce. I replaced the prawn paste with yeast and extra soy so this dish is vegan. If you prefer to use blachan then add 1 Tablespoon of roasted paste to the sauce when adding the sugar
- To make this Singapore chilli crab add 3 quartered blue swimmer crabs or 1 whole chopped (pre- steamed) mud crab and toss until cooked through or completely coated in the sauce
- Use a low salt and sugar ketchup if you prefer.
- Coriander can be replaced by ginger if you do not like corianders flavour. Use approximately 2 teaspoons of finely grated ginger