My nephew, Andres, is one of the smartest kids I know. He can hold his own in conversation with any adult, and he is super-respectful and loving. When he was really little, he used to have that cute tiny-kid voice, and he would create funny words, like “tikka tikka,” which meant “give me a horsie ride!” You’d get on all fours, and he’d jump on your back and say, “tikka tikka!” And away you’d go.

One of the words he created that has stuck with us is jalapica. I think he must have been trying to say jalapeno at some point, but for him, it was jalapica. It makes sense, because something that’s very spicy is referred to as picante in Spanish. We’ve adopted this word in our everyday talk. “Does it have jalapica in it?” “Is it very pica?” Generally, Justin loves anything that’s pica, while I tend to shy away from it.

This dinner was definitely pica. I didn’t think the one lonely jalapeno I added could affect the spiciness that much, but it created a burn that made Justin love it. I loved the flavors, too, but by the end of the dish, I was frantically trying to cool off my tongue.

Of course I changed a few things…I used one jalapeno instead of the 2 serranos, and I used half a head of regular cabbage instead of Napa cabbage, which I couldn’t find at the store that day. I served it over brown Texmati rice. I think next time I might saute the tofu a bit first, or maybe add it to the broth a bit earlier so it can absorb more flavor. Otherwise, this was a yummy dish.

Thai-Style Tofu and Vegetables in Spicy Coconut Broth

  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 large shallots)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 serrano chiles, with seeds, thinly sliced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups Napa cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 cup sliced fresh shiitake or white mushroom caps
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 pound firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 cup snow peas, strings removed, cut in half crosswise
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 scallion, green part cut into 1-inch lengths, white part thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the shallots and oil and saute for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the chiles, ginger, garlic, and turmeric, and saute for 1 minute more. Add the cabbage, carrot, and mushrooms and saute for 2 more minutes, until the vegetables soften.

Pour in the coconut milk and 1 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the tofu, soy sauce, and salt and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and snow peas and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add the basil and scallion and simmer for 1 minute more.

Serve over rice with lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley.

3 responses to “Jalapica!”

  1. I tell you! You are defininetly making me want to try this tofu stuff! Love you!

  2. I love it when little kids make up words. My niece used to say “mobila” (oatmeal) and “ippie keem” (ice cream). She said “hoppy birdy” instead of happy birthday, but that also meant cake, as in: “Where hoppy birdy?”

  3. Great story – my nephews love to make up new words! Your dinner sounds very good – another way for us to try tofu I think!

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