How to Prepare a Tofu Phali

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One of the great health recipes of India is tofu phali which relies on green beans with silken tofu. The fibre content is high but calories are relatively low. The spices are of course what make the dish especially when the beans and tofu are cooked in a scrumptious tomato sauce. Serve with plain or wild rice with naan breads and chapati breads.


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The Tofu

  • 500g silken tofu
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil but use ghee if it is not to be vegan. 
  • ½ tsp salt and ground black pepper

The Tofu Phali Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil – coconut oil/sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large red onion – finely chopped along with 1/2 red onion just sliced to be added later
  • 1 tbsp ginger – thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped
  • 1 fresh red chili – chopped into rough pieces or 2 pieces of whole dried chili which is crumbled.
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 300g runner beans or green beans – sliced on the angle into 1 inch pieces  and destringed.
  • 400g tomatoes – 1 can
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ¾ turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp tomato sliced
  • A good handful of coriander leaves – chopped.


  1. Rinse the tofu well with water. Wrap in paper towels to remove excess moisture. Allow to sit for a half-hour.
  2. Cut the tofu into battens and gently fry in oil in a skillet or frying pan with 1 tbsp of oil of choice. Try to just crisp the tofu. If using an air fryer for example than air fry for 15-20 minutes at 180ºC. Carefully turn the tofu round to get even cooking on both sides.
  3. Remove the tofu and place on a board. Season with pepper and salt.
  4. To prepare the sauce, heat a skillet or frying pan over a medium heat.
  5. Add the oil to this pan and heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them spit and crackle for a minute.
  6. Add chopped onion and fry on a high heat for 3 or 4 minutes until it is translucent. Stir to avoid sticking to the pan. Add the ginger and garlic and continue frying but keep stirring to stop both the garlic and ginger sticking. Another 2 minutes should do it.
  7. Add the chili and cook for another minute.
  8. Add the stock and beans and cook on a low heat for another 2 minutes. You can add a another tablespoon of water to make the sauce more liquid if needs be. Mix thoroughly.
  9. Add the can of tomatoes
  10. Add the spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric powder, black pepper, garam masala and salt). 
  11. Mix well and cook the spiced sauce for another 2 or 3 minutes.
  12. When the oil in the sauce starts to separate out add sliced tomatoes. 
  13. Stir and just coat the beans but don’t overcook as crunchiness is important.
  14. Add the vinegar to a bare spot on the pan and then the tofu.
  15. Mix and toss off the tofu without disrupting it. Try to coat with the sauce and allow it to absorb the flavours.
  16. Add a half-squeezed juice from a lime and then the chopped coriander leaves.
  17. Add to a bowl and garnish with slices of lemon or lime.
  18. Best serve tofu phali with a chapati or naan bread.
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