Eat for Eight Bucks: Tofu with Tomatoes and Cilantro Recipe

Eat for Eight Bucks

Dinner recipes that will keep your stomach and wallet happy from Cara and Phoebe of Big Girls, Small Kitchen

Eat for Eight Bucks: Tofu with Tomatoes and Cilantro Recipe

[Photograph: Robin Bellinger]

Shopping List

1 pound tofu: $1.29 2 scallions (pro-rated): $0.25
Ginger: $0.50 6 button mushrooms: $1.48 Cilantro: $1.00 4 plum tomatoes: $1.81 1 cup frozen peas (pro-rated): $1.00 1 cup raw white rice: $1.00

Pantry items: Peanut or canola oil, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil.

Total cost (for 4 portions): $8.33

I would tell you that Madhur Jafrey's tofu with tomatoes and cilantro is the most warmly received bean curd dish I've ever prepared, but the truth is that that wouldn't be saying much. My husband's enthusiasm for tofu is nonexistent, and I like the soft white bricks more for their price and long-keeping qualities than their taste.

Nevertheless, in this preparation I've finally (finally!) found a tofu dinner that genuinely pleases all of us--mama, papa, and baby, too. The secret to coaxing a crisp golden exterior out of bean curd eludes me still, but nobody notices when the bowl holds so many other flavors and textures and colors--bright tomatoes, sweet peas, earthy mushrooms, fragrant ginger, green cilantro. We were all eager for seconds and glad to have a little left over.

If you can't bear to use this much oil, you can cut it in half and use a nonstick skillet (or resign yourself to scrubbing out the pan). The scallions are nice, but a couple of tablespoons of minced onion will do in a pinch. The rice vinegar can be omitted or replaced with white wine vinegar. You might even omit the ginger if necessary, but don't skip the cilantro. It's worth buying a bunch.

Tofu with Tomatoes and Cilantro

  • Yield:4


  • 1 pound medium to firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes and patted dry
  • 4 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • 2 scallions, cut into thin rounds; keep white and green parts separate
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 medium-size button mushrooms (about 1/3 pound), sliced
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 plum tomatoes (about 14 ounces), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Cooked white rice for serving


  1. 1.

    Put 3 tablespoons of the oil into a 12-inch skillet (or whatever you like to use to stir fry) and heat over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, saute the tofu cubes until they are golden on most sides, 6 to 7 minutes. (I almost never achieve golden tofu, so I just give it my best shot.) Remove with a slotted spoon.

  2. 2.

    Add the remaining oil to the pan. When it is hot, put in the white parts of the scallions, the ginger, and the garlic and stir for 40 seconds over a medium flame. Add the mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the cilantro and then add the tomatoes and soy sauce. Stir for about a minute before putting the tofu cubes back into the pan along with the vinegar and peas. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, toss in the green parts of the scallions and the sesame oil, and serve over white rice.