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Spicy Tofu September 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Cooking, Food, Television.
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Another one of my non-traditional yet yummy concoctions. A true Ma Po Tofu uses ground pork in the sauce, but I like to keep this simpler and lower on the cholesterol scale, since evidently my genetic makeup will see to it that rubber cement runs through my veins by the time I’m 70.

All the amounts I’m giving here would work with one 15 ounce cake of firm tofu, usually what you get in one package.

First, cut the tofu into equal-width blocks. Wrap them in a tea towel or cheesecloth, and place it on a cutting board. Put a flat baking sheet on top and weigh it down with a couple of cans of vegetables, or use 1 big 28oz can of peeled tomatoes (which I prefer). This will squeeze the water out of the tofu without crushing it, and allow the tofu to sponge up a lot of the sauce later on while stir frying. Let it sit and drain for an hour.

Chop up whatever vegetables you want (carrots, peanuts, broccoli, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, mushrooms… whatever!) and put in a bowl with about a teaspoon of finely minced ginger.

In a decent sized mug or small bowl, mix this sauce:
1 – 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp hot chili paste w/garlic, 1 tbs of sherry, 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce, another teaspoon of minced ginger, a pinch of salt & 1/4 cup of chicken broth.

In another mug, dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch into 2 tsp of water.

Now everything is ready to go! Cut the tofu into 1″ pieces (you’ll get about 16 of these to a cake).

Heat the wok (or frying pan, if you must) to smoking, add a little peanut oil, and put the vegetables in first. Stir fry them until they are mostly cooked, still a little crisp, and the ginger is fragrant. Remove from the wok and set aside.

A little more oil into the wok, and then add the tofu. Gently stir fry it to brown it all over, and then add the sauce mix to the pot. Mix it up, bring the sauce to a boil and let the tofu soak a little of it up as it cooks down.

After a minute or two, add the vegetables back in. Mix it all up, and then add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir to thicken the sauce & allow it to coat everything nicely.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle a little sesame oil on top along with some chopped green onion, and serve with white rice.

This stuff also freezes very well and can be thawed & microwaved for quick dinners. The sauce thins a bit from freezing and thawing, but the flavor remains. I just made a couple of batches for this very purpose just now after discovering some tofu in the back of the ‘fridge had expiration dates coming up when I was restocking on beer.

Looking at that last sentence, I truly feel like a 21st century man. It’s as if Felix Unger and Oscar Madison had a gene spliced son, and it was me…

By the way, I’m glad to see them issuing the second season (and hopefully seasons 3-5 are on the way) of The Odd Couple on DVD. Once that show went in front of a live audience from season 2 on and allowed Randall & Klugman to improvise more, the comedy gold just flowed and flowed. One of the best and tragically under-rerun sitcoms out there, finally on DVD! Yay!

Did I mention that spicy tofu goes very well with beer? Even Oscar would agree.

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