Burma Superstar’s chickpea-based tofu is the perfect high-protein appetizer, snack, or salad-topper.
Here at Healthyish, our love for chickpea flour knows no bounds. Really, is there anything this gluten-free, protein-rich flour can’t do? You can turn it into fry-like fritters or a crêpe-omelet hybrid; you can use it in all kinds of baked goods. But ever since picking up Burma Superstar, the new cookbook from Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy based on recipes from the Bay area mini-chain, we’ve been stuck on one chickpea variation: Burmese tofu. Nope, there’s no soy involved. Just chickpea flour whisked in liquid over the stove, then cooled and cut polenta-style.
The dish has been a staple in Burmese culture for years, originating in the Shan State of Myanmar (it’s also known as Shan tofu). Unlike panelle, a Sicilian crispy, fried fritter created using a similar technique, Burmese tofu is silky, creamy, and smooth.
I called Leahy, who co-wrote the book with Burma Superstar chef Desmond Tan, to find out more about the Burmese tofu recipe. The restaurant version uses yellow split peas, chickpea flour, wheat starch, and corn starch; the tofu is deep fried and served with a soy chili dipping sauce. But the cookbook has a second recipe, which Leahy describes as a “homestyle version you might see if someone in Yangon invited you over and made it for you.” This tofu is all chickpea: the flour gets combined with salt, turmeric, and water, then cooked with more water until it’s “thick as Play-Doh.” Then it’s poured into an oiled pan to cool. In half an hour, the tofu is done: ready to be sliced into a salad with crunchy fried garlic and a citrusy tamarind dressing, or, as we’ve been doing, cooked in a nonstick pan until the outsides are just slightly crisp. “You can get a similar effect to the fried tofu this way,” promises Leahy, and she’s right.
To serve on its own, Leahy suggests garnishing the tofu with sesame and scallions and serving it alongside a sauce made from a super-simple mix of Sriracha, ginger, garlic, honey, and lime, like we did here. Of course, there are plenty of other creative ways to get chickpea tofu into your meals. Sarah Britton, the holistic nutritionist, chef, and founder of My New Roots, makes her own version of Burmese tofu called Genius Chickpea Tofu, which calls for soaking the chickpea flour overnight then cooking it with coconut oil. She recommends using the stuff anywhere you’d use firm soy tofu, like in salad, soups, and stews.
Since chickpea flour—also known as garbanzo flour, gram flour, and besan flour—is increasing in popularity, it’s getting easier to find. Look for Bob’s Red Mill’s Garbanzo Bean Flour at Whole Foods and organic grocery stores. Asian or Middle Eastern markets will also stock a variety of brands.