My Dad has been on a Thai food kick for the last, say, 15 years, but its rare that we attempt to recreate any of our favorites at home. We have such phenomenal restaurants nearby that we usually take out.
In NOVA, the golden standard is Duangrats, a classic Thai restaurant that's on the fancy side. You can't go wrong with the Sweet and Sour Tofu, the plaintain tempura, Pad See Ew... oh honestly, you can't go wrong. Everything here is fresh and perfectly seasoned- and their peanut sauce is the best I've ever had. On the other hand, there are plenty of meat dishes for family and friends to obsess over, so this can be a convenient special occassion place.
Right around the corner of the same shopping complex is Rabieng, a smaller restaurant owned by the same folks. The food is just as good but there is more of a street food focus, and the prices are slightly better. I always tend to get the ginger tofu, with plenty of fresh ginger and wood eared mushrooms, but all the other standards are equally great.
In Silver Spring (one of my other haunts) Thai at Silver Spring, right on the Hellsworth ave strip is actually pretty decent (and delivers!)I rarely stray from the Penang tofu (because its so freaking awesome) but I'm sure there are plenty of other great things too.
Which brings me back to my Dad. He discovered a small Asian foods market right next to Rabieng that has a lot of the ingredients necessary for their dishes. On top of everything else, they sell tofu wholesale for $.33 a pound. They also have a small can of penang curry paste with which he makes this simple and delicious dish. Its so good that is has actually held us back from Duangrats a few times.
1 package tofu
1 can penang curry paste
1 can coconut milk (1 1/4 c.)
1 tsp oil
1. Do your usual routine to rid tofu of excess water. (Freeze and defrost, weight it on a colander, ect.) Cut the tofu into thin squares, and in the meantime heat a wok or saucepan full of vegetable oil to high. Deep fry the tofu by placing pieces in the oil, and plucking them out when they are golden brown and floating. Keep the finished pieces on a plate with paper towels.
2. In a large pan, combine the paste, coconut milk and oil. Heat to medium and add the tofu. Serve over rice.