Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spicy Fried Tofu

Some months back, my son and I decided to check out a local vegetarian Indian restaurant. We had no idea what we were eating, but it was all so good! We wrote down the names of some of the dishes labeled on the buffet tables so we could look them up when we got home. A few days later I checked out several Indian cookbooks from the library, hoping to find some of the dishes I could replicate. I'll let you know when I try some of them.

One of the dishes I did find, however, was for a spicy fried fish. Having had some pretty good luck with substituting tofu slices for fish in other recipes, I gave this one a go. It was so good I think I quite literally gobbled my food!

Spicy Fried Tofu

1 container of tofu, frozen, then boiled, pressed and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1 t. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. lemon juice
Olive oil

Mix the garlic, salt, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice together to make a paste. Spread the paste over the tofu slices and let sit for about 20 minutes. Fry the slices in the olive oil until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels and serve!

I served mine with a basmati rice mix with cranberries and almonds and some frozen green beans. Like I said, it was so good I couldn't get enough!

This recipe fascinated me not only because it sounded delicious, but because of the ingredients. I had been doing some research on turmeric and how good it was for a number of reasons, but mostly because of its cholesterol lowering abilities. Doing the research, I learned that studies have indicated that curcumin (turmeric) has a poor bioavailability (absorption) when consumed orally due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall. However, piperine (black pepper) is a bioavailability enhancer that allows substances to remain in cells for longer periods of time. The studies found that by consuming turmeric with black pepper, the bioavailability was increased by 154%!  In Indian foods, the average dietary intake of turmeric in the Indian population ranges between 2 to 2.5 grams. Pepper was the one of the first crops that was cultivated in India and is consumed together with turmeric. They noted that the rates for colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers in India are one of the lowest in the world.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that the compounds curcumin and piperine could play an important role in preventing and even treating breast cancer. The research shows curcumin and piperine target stem cells (unspecialized cells that can give rise to any type of cell in an organ). This is of major significance because cancer stem cells comprise the small number of cells inside a tumor that fuel the growth of malignancies. More good news: the compounds had no effect on the normal process of cell development known as cell differentiation. That means the spice compounds are not toxic to normal breast tissue.

So, suffice it to say I'll be adding more Indian dishes to my cooking repertoire!


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