Saturday, 29 September 2012

Spicy Tofu Palau (Afghanistan's National Dish - Vegan style!)

Every month when I feature recipes from a different country around the world, I usually have a huge cooking blitz one day early in the month. I'll cook something like 8 different dishes from that country and then invite some friends around to help me eat it all! This works well because not only can I have a day of focused cooking and photographing, but I can also get feedback from a group of people on which dishes were the absolute best and which ones didn't quite make the grade.

The downside, however, is that I'm generally running around frantically trying to get it all together in the last hour or so before people arrive, so invariably there is one or two dishes that fly a bit under the radar in terms of photography! This is one of them! It's not the greatest photo I've ever posted, but it was one of the most popular dishes of the whole night, so there was no way that I wasn't going to post it! 

The other reason that I definitely wanted to post this one, is because Qabili Palau is the national dish of Afghanistan! It's also not very vegan! It's usually made with chicken, lamb or both. So, you'll have to forgive me for this not very traditional recipe, but I decided I would substitute some delicious spice marinated tofu - not because I thought it was authentic, but because I thought it would be incredibly delicious!

This is probably going to be my last post this month from Afghanistan, as the month is almost over! Sadly I didn't get a chance to try or to post all the recipes that I wanted to, so I may have to try some of them a bit later and then add them up! Check out my other Afghan recipes in the links below the recipes, and if you'd like to request a country to be featured leave me a comment on this post.

400g hard tofu, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups basmati rice
2 onions, diced
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 carrots, sliced into long thin pieces
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup vegetable stock, hot (or use a vegetable based 'chicken' stock, such as Massel)
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped

Palau Spice Mix
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp black pepper

To Make
1. Wash the rice well and soak in plenty of cold water for 1 hour.
2. Combine the spices to make the spice mix.
3. Slice the tofu into long strips (about the size and thickness of hot potato chips). Lay about half of them out in a layer (I do it in a rectangle tupperware container so that I can put the lid on and shake it all up) and sprinkle 1 tsp of the spice mix over it. Lay a the remaining tofu on top and sprinkle another teaspoon of the spice mix. Drizzle the 2 tbsp olive oil over the top, put the lid on and shake it all up (you can also just mix it in a bowl and mix it around every now and then). Leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30 minutes.
4. Place a large non stick pan (I just used my wok - not very Afghan but it did the job beautifully!) over a medium heat and add 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the onions and the carrots and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the carrots are slightly tender, but not quite cooked yet. Add the brown sugar and the raisins. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for another 2-3 minutes, or until the carrots are just cooked.
5. Remove the carrots & raisins from the pan and set aside. Add the tofu and all of the spice/oil marinade to the pan. Fry over a medium heat until the tofu is browned on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. 
6. Drain the rice and rinse well. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the drained rice to the boiling water. Bring back to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the rice is only just cooked. Drain.
7. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in the wok and add the remaining palau spice mix. Fry for 1 minute, the spices should become very fragrant, but careful not to burn them. 
8. Add the rice to the pan and stir well so that the spices are mixed through. Add the hot vegetable stock and the carrots and raisins. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and stir through the chopped nuts. Top with the fried tofu and serve. 

Serves 4. 

This month I'm featuring lots of amazing recipes from Afghanistan!
Check out my other Afghan recipe posts:


  1. This was excellent! I was a little suspicious as the recipe didn't ask for any salt, so I added some to the tofu marinade and the rice.
    Also, I replaced pistachios with cashews, as I didn't have any on hand, and I toasted the nuts before adding them. Everything turned out great, I'll definitely try this again sometime with pistachios.

  2. thanks for sharing.

  3. That looks soooo good! Thanks for sharing! : D

  4. Nice. Could you please feature Norway?