Wednesday, February 1, 2012

BBQ Tofu Nachos a la Hawkins

Some might call it odd, but I call it Memphis veggie fusion. It's where Memphis's BBQ culture collides with vegetarian cuisine. The result of this phenomenon is served up in restaurants, bars, and BBQ joints all around the city. You can find Chef Gary slingin' some stellar vegetarian soul food at De Javu down on Florida St. or walk into Central BBQ and order a mighty fine BBQ sandwich...a vegetarian portobello mushroom BBQ sandwich, that is.
The Big Bang of Memphis veggie fusion had to be in the mid 90's at a little place near the University of Memphis called R.P. Trax. My good buddy Chris Hawkins, who is now helping to expand the vegetarian options at 3 Angels Diner, created R.P. Trax's original vegetarian menu about 15 years ago. You can sit down and order BBQ tofu quesadillas with smoked gouda, or a BBQ tofu sandwich with sweet potato fries, or Tofu Wings with blue cheese, or a BBQ tofu burrito. For brunch, they even have a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, and -- you guessed it -- BBQ tofu. I think you can see the pattern here. My all-time favorite is a Memphis original: BBQ tofu nachos. House-made chips with some sort of "cool ranch" seasoning, vegetarian black bean chili, lettuce, tomato, pickled peppers, melted cheddar, deep-fried BBQ tofu, and sour cream all piled onto a metal plate the size of your head. Two people could share this mammoth plate and walk away completely satisfied.

I made a version of Chris' BBQ tofu nachos at home so all of you outside of Memphis could get a taste of our fair city.

BBQ Tofu Nachos + Chipotle Pinto Beans & Guacamole

3 handfuls of corn tortilla chips
2 cups Chipotle Pinto Beans (recipe follows)
2 cups Pan-Fried BBQ Tofu (recipe follows)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup No-Fuss Guacamole (recipe follows) 
cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeno peppers, and lime wedges (for garnish)

Grab a large plate and start pilling on the ingredients; start with the chips and end with the garnishes. Next, grab something to drink and a corral a friend. You'll need both to help you finsh off this giant plate of Memphis fusion.

Chipotle Pinto Beans
(This takes two hours.)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion (diced)
1 tablespoon dried chipotle chili powder (less if you don't like it too spicy)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 cups pinto beans (soaked overnight)
3 medium tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
2 cups vegetable stock
sea salt to taste

In a pot, sauté onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is translucent and just starting to brown. Add the spices and cook another minute or two. Add the tomatoes, beans, and water to the pot and bring this to a boil. Simmer for two hours or until beans are creamy and tender. Salt to taste.

Pan-Fried BBQ Tofu

1 block extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce

Cut tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and blot excess water with a kitchen towel. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, brown the tofu on all sides in the pan. (This should only take a few minutes.) Remove tofu and drain off any extra oil. Toss cubes in warm BBQ sauce. Keep the tofu warm on the stovetop until you're ready to assemble the nachos.

No-Fuss Guacamole:

2 ripe Haas avocados
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/2 lime (juiced)
1/4 teaspoon pinch of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Peel and dice the avocados and place them in a medium bowl. Rinse the chopped onion in cold water to get rid of any astringent onion flavor. Add the lime juice, onion, sea salt, sugar, and black pepper and stir. Set aside in the fridge (with the pit nestled into the guar in order to prevent browning) until ready to use.


  1. Huge nacho fan. This is officially on the list!

  2. Taylor and Leanna are doing this one. Thanks guys!

  3. Ok, well those are probably the best nachos I have ever had, let alone made at home. I decided to make this today, which coincided with Super Bowl Sunday. That fact didn't settle in until I went to buy tortilla chips. Not the item you want to be looking for at 3:30. Anyways, two stores later and I was ready to go. On to the testing notes.

    There was actually very little to comment on for this recipe. If you follow the directions and leave enough time, it isn't as complicated as it seems at first reading.

    Chipotle Pinto Beans

    With the beans, the 2 cups of stock didn't cover my beans in the pot. Not sure if this was the size of my beans or some other issue but I added a touch more liquid just to make sure.

    Speaking of stock, the ingredient list says stock, but the cooking directions says water. I went with the stock and quite liked it.

    I cooked the beans covered, which was not specified in the instructions as that is how I always cook beans.

    Also in regards to the beans, the recipe made a lot. Not that I mind having left over but I had about 4 cups left over. It will get used in this house but it was a little unexpected.

    Pan-Fried BBQ Tofu

    The "one block" measurement is a norm for tofu, I know. But I wasn't sure if my effort was too little tofu or too much BBQ sauce. I only used 1-1 1/4 cup and there was plenty for the amount of tofu I had.

    While I am on the topic of tofu, it might be good to mention in the directions to dry really well. I have made your BBQ tofu before and didn't have a problem, but this time they stuck to the pan. Last time I remember patting them dry and letting them sit for a bit to make sure they were dry, on a recommendation of yours from the recipe. The tofu still turned out at the end, I just wanted to mention it.

    No-Fuss Guacamole

    Nothing really to say for this part. Everything went well. The only item would be that the directions say "guar" when I would assume you meant "guac". But I might be wrong on this one.

    As for the actual nachos, I honestly thought that the omission of baking the nachos after assembling was a typo. After actually assembling them I realized the error of my thinking. The warm beans and tofu just melt the cheddar cheese enough to be delicious. I apologize for even thinking about putting these in the oven. They were fantastic.