This recipe begins with a simple corn stock. Corn kernels, onion, and ginger are sautéed, then buzzed into a velvety, smooth soup and topped with larb-style tofu. Larb is a Thai and Laotian preparation of ground meat, but this recipe uses tofu, instead. Did you know you can cook tofu like ground meat? I didn't either, until Mark Bittman wrote about it a few weeks ago (thanks for that Mark!). You simply crumble up the tofu and sauté it until it turns golden brown. I used coconut oil, but you can use any oil you'd like. After the tofu turns GBD (golden brown delicious), it gets tossed with some fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and chili pepper. —Colleen Rose
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Colleen Rose is a gluten-free cook from Somerville, Massachusetts.
WHAT: Hot and spicy tofu larb! Balanced by the sweetness of corn soup.
HOW: You know how to make a velvety corn soup: Blend corn kernels, corn stock, and sautéed onions. Now, start your lesson in larb: Sauté crumbled tofu until it’s golden brown and crispy. Toss with fish sauce, lime juice, and hot chilies, then float this garnish on the cool soup and enjoy the best of both worlds.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Tofu larb, we’re so grateful to know you. We can’t wait to use this crunchy, spicy tofu mixture (with no meat in sight) to top stir-fries, salads, and our favorite summer corn soups. Dinner just got a whole lot more exciting. Thanks, larb! —The Editors
For the corn soup:
ears of corn
cilantro, stems only (reserve the leaves for the larb)
onion, sliced thin
ginger, roughly chop
For the tofu larb:
package firm tofu
fish sauce (or soy sauce/tamari for a vegan recipe)
cilantro, leaves only, finely minced
2 to 3
bird's eye chilies, or more to taste, finely minced.
Remove kernels from cobs (this is a great way to do it: https://food52.com/blog/2259-how-to-de-kernel-corn). Set kernels aside until ready to use.
Place cobs in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the water simmer for 20 to 30 minutes (which is conveniently how long it will take to brown the tofu and sauté the other soup ingredients). During the last 5 minutes of cooking, throw in the cilantro stems. Strain and set aside until ready to use.
Heat coconut oil in an appropriately sized skillet. Briefly sauté the onions, corn kernels, and ginger until the onions turn translucent.
Add the corn mixture to a Vitamix or another type of blender and add enough corn stock to cover. Purée until the mixture is smooth. Add remaining corn stock and blend. Strain through fine-mesh sieve. [Editors' note: This will result in a very thin soup. You may want to return some of the solids to the soup to add bulk.]
For the tofu larb:
Press tofu with kitchen towels or paper towels to remove excess water. Using your hands, crumble the block into small-ish pieces, about the size of peas.
Heat coconut oil in a skillet large enough to hold the tofu in a single layer. Add tofu and sauté until it turns golden brown. Keep the tofu moving to prevent it from sticking to the pan. The remaining moisture from the tofu will evaporate out, and you'll have a slightly crunchy, finely-textured end product. If desired, drain the tofu on paper towels.
Combine the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, if using. Toss with cooked tofu. Fold in cilantro and chili peppers.
Portion soup into bowls. Top with a large spoonful of tofu larb. Garnish with additional cilantro or chili peppers, if desired.