Loving the BITE: Pan-Fried Tofu with Lemongrass

Doufu anyone?  Not a typo; just a little Loving the Bite trivia.  This week’s key ingredient, tofu, is a staple of Asian cuisine, and just happens to go by “doufu” in China (“tofu” in Japan).  But what’s that got to do with cycling?  We all know that great cycling requires a healthy body – strong heart, minimal cellular inflammation, healthy, growing muscles, and optimal immune and digestive functions.  It just so happens that a little doufu can help you achieve these results.

Pan-Fried Tofu with Spicy Lemongrass Sauce 

(adapted from Cooking Light 2004 – http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pan-fried-tofu-with-spicy-lemongrass-sauce-tofu-nuong-xa-10000000686207/

Ingredients:

  • 2 (15-oz.) packages of extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp Peanut oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped peeled fresh lemongrass
  • 1 red Thai chili, minced

Instructions: 

  1. Cut each tofu block into 8 long strips (16 total).  Arrange strips in a single layer on several layers of paper towels to dry out – let stand 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add tofu and cook 2 minutes on each side, until browned.  Set aside, keeping warm.
  3. Combine honey and fish sauce, blend well.  Heat remaining peanut oil in small saucepan over medium high heat.  Add shallots & garlic, sauté for 3 minutes.  Then, add lemongrass and chili, sauté an add’l 2 minutes.  Stir in honey mixture and cook 1 minute.  Serve lemongrass sauce with tofu.

Comments:

As many Loving the BITE readers know, I am not a big fan of the Western trend of putting processed soy protein in everything.  In cereal, in sports bars, in pasta, in baby formula, in everything.  Our food manufacturers often take one healthy food, disassemble it into an ingredient, mix it with a bunch of “junk ingredients” like sugar, and mass produce it in every food possible.  All the while, they claim it still provides all the same benefits, without any detriments, that it does as a whole, “real” food.

Not likely.

I prefer and recommend “real food” eating (for Daily Nutrition, at least), with nutrients found in the foods in which they were intended.  When these foods are consumed, the nutrients in them typically work together to provide their benefits – and they don’t often work the same once they’ve been broken down, processed, and heavily altered.  In fact, you usually get other benefits from the whole food, too – you may eat tofu for protein, but you’ll also get omega-3s and minerals.  It’s for this reason that I recommend whole fruits and vegetables over “produce powders” and real protein sources over amino acid supplements.  Speaking of nutrient-packed “real” foods, the Chinese discovered a great one 2000 years ago. (Enough of my soap-box!)

Made from the curds of soybean milk, tofu offers cyclists a non-animal-source of protein (~11 grams for 5 oz. firm tofu), omega-3s, and minerals including selenium and non-heme iron.   Selenium is super important for antioxidant production and function in the body, including the production of our old powerhouse antioxidant friend, glutathione.  And iron, of course, if absolutely necessary to endurance athletes for energy production. In my career, I’ve seen low iron status rear its ugly head and correlate with chronic colds, fatigue, slow recovery and over-use injuries.

Additionally, tofu also provides nutrients important to collagen production and recovery of tissues in the human body – specifically, a key anti-inflammatory isoflavone, genistein, and the amino acid proline. These nutrients, along with the protein and omega-3’s, make tofu a great food for everyday health and recovering from illness or a cycling injury.

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