Terry takes students to the vegetable kingdom

CBSS presents tofu curry with Bryant Terry

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the Center for Black Student Success (CBSS) virtually hosted chef, educator and author Bryant Terry on Feb. 5 to demonstrate how to create a delicious, vegan tofu curry’ recipe. 

Terry, a James Beard award-winning chef, currently resides in Oakland and is the chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. He has also published two worldwide recognized cookbooks titled “Afro-Vegan” where this recipe is derived from, and more recently, “Vegetable Kingdom.” 

Terry led the virtual cooking demonstration by discussing the traditions and recipes instilled to him by previous generations and family members’ gardens. “My grandfather used to tell me when you rely on others to feed you, once they stop, you’ll starve,” Terry said. 

With familial roots from Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas, Terry highlights Black cooking and positions soul food in a light of endearment and perseverance. 

“There’s been a collective amnesia where we have forgotten about these practices,” Terry said.

Terry experienced a food politicalization after over-indulging in processed food, which opened his eyes. Seeing young children gulping sodas and munching on Flaming Hot Cheetos for breakfast on a New York City subway during his culinary school years, Terry followed his passion to teach young generations about healthy eating habits, opposing the social advertisements plaguing society with billboards and commercials of non-nutritious junk food. 

“More people are rejecting our industrial food system,” Terry said. “People are embracing ways we can incorporate plants into our diets.” 

Recommending that home chefs invest in good, sharp knives to avoid cutting oneself, Terry led viewers through his process of making homemade vegetable stock consisting of onion, mushrooms, garlic, celery, potatoes, cabbage and bay leaves. Depending on the recipe, Terry occasionally likes to add jalapeno and scotch bonnet peppers to his stock and food, particularly for Afro-Caribbean meals. 

“It’s going to bring more flavor into the dish,” Terry said. “The key is adding (the scotch bonnet) whole, with the stem on.” 

Using recipes as a guide allows for spontaneity and personalization. Terry informed viewers that tofu curry can be modified to an individual’s taste, such as supplementing the tofu with chicken or fish. 

Lining a baking sheet with parchment paper, Terry drizzled olive oil and salt over cubed, extra-firm tofu and baked in the oven for approximately 30 minutes at 450 degrees. If looking for additional heat, Terry suggests adding more chili powder to the concoction, as well as making at-home spice mixtures to guarantee fresh and fragrant results that pack a punch.

“Any spice will burn quickly if you’re not mindful of it,” Terry said. 

Sauteeing 1 diced onion in olive oil over medium-low heat, Terry carmelized the natural sugars of the onion, followed by a 1 can of organic tomatoes. Then he combined 1 heaping tablespoon of chunky peanut butter, 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper, mustard greens, bay leaves and 3 cups of stock, brought it to a boil and simmered and stirred it occasionally for 20 minutes.

“The peanut butter adds more depth and creaminess to this type of curry,” Terry said. “If you have a peanut allergy, you can use hazelnut, cashew or almond butter instead.” 

Once the dish simmered for 20 minutes, he added in the tofu to simmer and marry the ingredients for another 10 minutes, sprinkling salt and pepper as necessary and garnished it with cilantro. 

Harnessing creativity and using ingredients on hand are prime examples of becoming one’s own chef. When it comes to following one’s passions, Terry advises listening to your heart and spirit to guide the way. 

“If 2020 taught us anything, there is no stability,” Terry said. “I want to encourage people to find what drives you and enlivens you. Define success for yourself.”


14 to 16-ounce extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 white onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

6 cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1 heaping tablespoon chunky peanut butter

1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced

3 cups vegetable stock

12 ounces mustard greens, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

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