- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided, plus more for frying
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
- 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp. ground coriander
- 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 3/4 tsp. turmeric
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 (13 1/2 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 1/4 cups (1/2 pound) dried red lentils, rinsed
- 3 (3") strips lemon peel
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper, plus more to taste
- 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 pound firm tofu, patted dry and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
DirectionsActive time: 45 minutes Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring a few times, until soft, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add garlic, ginger, ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, and cinnamon; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add coconut milk, lentils, lemon peel strips, and 1 quart water and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Discard lemon peel strips.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender and return to the pot. Add lemon juice, season with 1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. white pepper, plus more to taste, and keep hot.
In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Add red pepper flakes and cumin seeds; when they sizzle, pour into a small, heatproof bowl and set aside.
Wipe out saucepan and add enough oil to come up 1". Heat oil until shimmering. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. salt. Toss tofu cubes in cornstarch mixture, shaking off excess. Dip a tofu cube into the oil. If it starts to sizzle, add half the tofu to the hot oil and fry over medium heat until pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining tofu cubes.
Ladle soup into bowls. Top with fried tofu and cilantro. Drizzle with reserved chile oil and serve.
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