Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Tofu te Mutter di Turri (Tofu & Peas Curry)


Of course, there is the obvious difference between a dish that is sautéed and dry and another that is wet and has some curry. But, it comes as a surprise to many people that the same dish made “dry” can taste so different when it is made “wet”. A clear example is this tofu dish which can be made both ways, but the favorite of my family is when it is made with turri (curry) and served hot. But not all vegetarian dishes taste good with curry, for example cauliflower or carrots and peas which are best sautéed.

Ever since Indians overseas have discovered the benefits of tofu, they have accepted it when they eat out, especially when eating Chinese food. A few have even ventured to use tofu in their own kitchen, but mostly as a substitute for paneer (Indian cottage cheese) without the high calories and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference, but this depends on the skill of the cook.

Tofu (or bean curd) is made by coagulating soy bean milk, then pressing the resulting white curds to drain the fluid and then forming it into blocks which can be soft, firm, or extra firm. Tofu is low in calories but relatively high in protein, iron, copper, zinc and vitamin B1 and depending on the coagulants used, can have high calcium or magnesium content.

Tofu can lower cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, but does not increase HDL. It is also considered beneficial as an antioxidant, minimizing diabetes and reducing inflammation since it is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid.

Because tofu has a subtle flavor, neutral taste and a range of consistency, it is often cooked seasoned or marinated with many other vegetables and meats. It can even be processed to have the texture of many types of meats. Tofu can be found in bulk or in small packages which are refrigerated, and once opened, should be rinsed and kept in water in the fridge. Unopened tofu can be frozen for upto 5 months.

This recipe is similar to the one made with paneer, but can be made quickly and with less preparation, yet have lots of flavor. It’s a quick and simple dish that most enjoy!



• 14oz pkt tofu (firm or extra firm)
• 200 gm mutter (green peas) – frozen or fresh
• 1 cup pani (water)
• 2 medium tamater (tomato) – soft ones are best, chopped
• 1 small pyaaz (onion) – peeled and finely chopped
• ½ teaspoon of lasan (garlic) powder (if desired)
• 1 small piece of adrak (ginger) – peeled and finely chopped
• 3 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil
• Spices (to taste): namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), haldi (turmeric), fresh dhania (coriander), garam masala



1. Open the packet of tofu and press down on the cubes to drain the water. Let it sit till most of the water is drained.
2. With a sharp knife, cut the tofu into small ½ inch square cubes.
3. Place a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and warm it up on medium heat.
4. Place the cubes of tofu in the frying pan and brown both sides slightly and make sure the water is dried off. Take off the heat and place on a plate to cool down.
5. Prepare the masala in a medium saucepan. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, then add the onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. Stir well to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the mixture is slightly brown, add the salt, pepper and haldi and stir well.
6. Throw in the peas and stir well to coat and cook for a few minutes. If frozen, then let the peas thaw out first before using. If fresh, then let the peas cook a little longer in the saucepan.
7. Throw in the browned tofu cubes; stir to coat well and let it cook for 2 minutes.
8. Add water and then cook for 5 minutes under medium low heat.
9. Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan and let it sit for five minutes.
10. Before serving, garnish the dish with garam masala and the shredded fresh dhania.



My son tells me of his experiments with cooking while he was in college and how the dish would either become a soup or be too hard and they would have to drown it in water to soften! This is a common problem with many inexperienced cooks and one that is easily fixed because it requires the right combination of heat and the timing to add the water. And some vegetables don’t require water but cook in their own steam.

If the water is added too early and the heat is high, chances are you’ll make a thick soup; but if the water is added last and the heat is low, you will get the ingredients floating in a thin soup without much taste. It is best to add the water after the ingredients are half cooked and also reduce the heat to simmer after the first boil so that the spices and herbs soak into the dish.



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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur (since renamed Faisalabad), India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes