Chinese Tofu with Kale, Barley, and Coconut

tofu kale plated

This nutrient-rich main has so much going on, it’s hard to believe it’s vegetarian. It has exotic flavours and hearty textures. I adapted this dish from a recipe I saw in Food & Wine magazine. At first glance, it’s not really something I’d ordinarily make, but the toasted coconut grabbed my attention, so I thought i’d test it out. I hope you like my rendition (with copious amounts of coconut and lemongrass).

Chinese Tofu with Kale, Barley, and Coconut
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • salt to taste
  • One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu, drained on double paper towels for 15 minutes.
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bottom 6 inches only, peeled and minced*
  • 4½ packed cups stemmed and shredded kale
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  1. In a pan, cover the barley with 2 cups of water, add a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the barley is just tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. In a large wok heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and the sesame oil. Add the tofu and five-spice. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 8 minutes. Add the green onion and cook for 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok. Add the lemongrass and cook over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until wilted. Add the barley and cook for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the barley and kale to a large platter. Top with the tofu, toasted coconut, sesame seeds, and mint. Serve with Drunken Oranges.
If you have a difficult time finding fresh lemongrass, you can always use Lemongrass paste that comes in a tube. Gourmet Garden is the freshest tasting. Lastly, don't skimp on the kale. It reduces once it starts to wilt.

kale in wok
I paired this lovely recipe with a bottle of Tobin James, Zinfandel. The fruit bomb balanced out the lemongrass nicely. Cheers!
Movie Night suggestions: Chinatown, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or In the Mood for Love if you are feeling particularly amorous.

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