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Tofu Pepper Stir Fry – Thai-ish. Or maybe Indonesian-ish

I’m frequently missing ingredients when I go to make a dish – there are so many different Asian sauces and pastes it’s hard to keep track of them all. I would normally make this with Nam Prik Pao, but having none on hand, and not having the energy to make my own (probably I would be lacking some ingredients for that as well) I went with a substitute of sambal oelek and kecap manis, both of which are Indonesian rather than Thai in origin as opposed to the Nam Prik Pao (which is a Thai thing).

Also this has bell peppers in it, which makes Thai purists shudder (NOT A THAI FLAVOR!) Oh well, what can I say, we’re culinary barbarians here.  We have the particularly peculiar and vulgar idea that if it tastes good, we eat it.  So sue me!  LOL!

This one’s easy.


  • extra-firm tofu, one block, pressed
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • one medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp to 1 T sambal olek (Indonesian chili paste), to taste
  • 1 T kecap manis
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced in good size chunks (to taste) – I used a yellow and a red
  • 2 T fish sauce (you vegetarians out there, substitute a vegetarian “fish” sauce or Golden Mountain sauce)
  • handful of Thai basil leaves only, rinsed well.  If you can’t find Thai basil, “regular” basil will do – but it won’t taste the same.  Still good, just different.
  • oil for sauteing


  1. Press the tofu and slice into medium thin slices
  2. Dry fry the tofu in a nonstick pan over a low medium heat ’til both sides are golden brown
  3. cut tofu into 1″ or so pieces (larger or smaller is ok, to taste)
  4. heat the oil in a fry pan – add the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onion starts to brown
  5. add sambal oelek, kecap manis, and fish sauce.  Saute for a couple of minutes
  6. add the tofu pieces and saute over a low heat for 5 to 10 mins to allow the tofu to pick up the flavor of the sauce
  7. add the bell pepper – saute another 3 mins over med low heat until the peppers just start to cook.  You want them to retain some crispiness so don’t over do it
  8. add the rinsed basil leaves and stir to incorporate.  Saute about a minute, then shut off the heat
  9. serve over rice with lime wedges

Next time, it’s noodles for this guy.  Which will take a bit more in the way of sauce – probably a bit more of the kecap manis, a touch more heat from sambal oelek or one of it’s cousins, some sake … This was good with rice, but I think it would make a really good noodle dish.

NOTE: I first made this using 2 tsp of the sambal oelek. This gave it a nice, mild hint of spiciness – but keep in mind, in our house we tend to eat HOT and think it’s normal. 2 tsp may be plenty hot for your tastes. For us, next time I’ll probably use at least twice as much, or else add some fresh chili. If using nam prik pao, it may take an entirely different amount, depending on the “innate hotness” of the brand you’re using.


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