Recipe: chinese stir-fried tofu
In my last post, I talked a little about how we have windstorms on steroids in Nederland. We typically don’t worry until the National Weather Service starts predicting gusts over 70 mph. Two years ago, we experienced gusts as high as 100 mph. That storm ripped a lot of large trees out of the ground and topped several mature conifers – just SNAPPED them off like twigs. We watched the front of our house flex in the storm until the power went out and then went to bed, hoping for the best. The house survived and we gained some confidence in the 110 mph wind build requirement in our town. The sun was out Friday afternoon and I raised the blinds in our great room to let Kaweah bask in the sun (still a favorite activity of hers).
Our house has a tall profile, faces southwest, and takes the full brunt of the prevailing winds. We knew something like this could happen, because the previous owners (now our friends) told us they had a window crack during a storm. We were expecting it for years, but let our guard down recently. And it would have been fine, except for wind forecasts of gusts up to 95 mph over the weekend. Images of a window blowing in and snow swirling in our house ran through my mind. I cancelled our dinner date and stress ate barbecue potato chips. Then our super awesome wonderful neighbor popped over and slapped a grid of duct tape over the window and said we should be fine, but to keep the blind down just in case. I uncancelled dinner with nary a minute to spare and we met our very understanding friends at Dae Gee.
chris is psyched for korean bbq, ellen sports a perplexed look between gushings over kimchi
she’s pointing at the kimchi
Dinner with good friends is a great way to forget about other things on your mind. Sure, the window loomed large, but the biggest thing on my mind of late is Kaweah. We came home from Crested Butte mainly to see her vet. He removed (yanked) her bad toenail off. You could tell she didn’t like it, but she was so good with the shot and the yanking and the blood. All she wanted was a treat and Doc Newton made sure to give her a lot of treat love. He told us her toe was a little swollen and that he hoped his prescription of antibiotics would bring that swelling down. But if it didn’t come down, it could be cancer. He raised his eyebrows while handing Kaweah another treat and said, “Normally we would amputate the toe, but she’s not a candidate for surgery at her age.” Understood.
To be honest, even if she has cancer, I wonder if other things won’t bring her down first. While the infected paw has healed and she is able to walk around on it without problems, her hind legs are another story. We watch her closely when she meanders about the house and her rear right leg doesn’t seem to know where it’s supposed to go, doesn’t even know where the floor is. The rear left leg has been swinging wide, catching on furniture, door jams, anything. She falls several times a day, but not the catastrophic spills of her youth. Kaweah doesn’t have the strength to struggle, so she softly slides into a reclining position without injury and looks confused until one of us helps her up or carries her to her bed. But Kaweah is always surprising us and I know she has a few more left in her. I just dread the day when she runs out of surprises. I’ve been crying a lot.
she likes having her schnoz scratched
My folks called this weekend and I had a nice, albeit brief, chat with them. Mom told me the most important thing is to make sure Kaweah is happy and comfortable. Of course. I know this, but somehow it made me feel better to hear it from her. I think when I’m really sad about something, there is no one else whose voice and words can bring me comfort like Mom. Same goes for her cooking. That evening, I set about preparing this terrific tofu dish that she makes for us when they are in town. Jeremy and I both love it.
fried tofu, bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, corn starch, pork, vegetable oil, shao xing cooking wine, napa cabbage, ginger, green onions
refrigerated winter bamboo shoots
This is really a stir-fried fried tofu with vegetables and pork. You can fry the tofu yourself or do as I did and purchase fresh fried tofu from the Asian grocery store. Make sure it is fresh and not slimy! Some Asian grocers are really bad about expired products, so check those dates or inspect the product closely if no dates are listed. And I happened upon refrigerated winter bamboo shoots, which have a better flavor and firmer texture compared to canned bamboo shoots. If you can get your hands on fresh bamboo shoots, that is EVEN BETTER. Don’t worry if you can’t find any of those, canned works too. I recommend trying to get whole ones, but sliced is also fine.
slice the fried tofu
slice the bamboo shoots
When I shot the recipe, I used fresh shitake mushrooms. Since then, I’ve made this dish three more times and used dried Chinese mushrooms instead. The dried mushrooms have a stronger flavor and meatier bite to them whereas the fresh mushrooms are delicate both in flavor and bite. It’s really a matter of preference, but I like the dried mushrooms better. To prep the Napa cabbage, I trim the leafy part from the rib of each leaf and julienne the ribs because I cook them separately (the ribs take longer to cook). You don’t have to do this. You can just as easily stack the leaves and slice them into 1/4-inch strips and cook it all at once, but I like how it is like eating two vegetables – one crunchy and one leafy.
julienned napa cabbage ribs and leaves
slice the pork
mix the pork with soy sauce, shao xing cooking wine, and cornstarch
ready to cook
A note on the pork. I cut the pork into slices the first time, but found that was just too much pork in one bite for my liking. Now, I cut the pork into strips. And you have a few options with the ginger. In this post, I julienne the ginger. That’s great for folks who like to have a sharp bite of ginger or those who want to avoid eating it (it’s easy to take out when eating). If you want the ginger flavor without the distinctive ginger bite, you can mince the ginger. And if you really don’t like to bite into ginger, but love the flavor – grate the ginger. Again, it’s whatever you prefer. When all of the ingredients are prepped (which is the bulk of the time invested), you are ready to get cooking. I use one pan for the whole thing.
adding bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and napa leaves to the stir-fried napa ribs
sauté the tofu with the ginger and green onions
stir-fry the pork
First, sauté the napa cabbage ribs because they take longer to cook. Stir in the bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and napa leaves and stir-fry until the leaves wilt. Empty the vegetables into a medium bowl. That’s group 1. Next, add the ginger and green onions to some hot oil and stir until the oil is fragrant. It just smells so good. Put the tofu in with the aromatics and sauté for a few minutes. Empty the tofu (group 2) into the bowl with the cooked vegetables (group 1). The last step is to stir-fry the pork. If you are using a non-stick pan, you won’t need as much vegetable oil for each step of stir-frying. I used a stainless steel All-Clad pan and the pork sauce began sticking to the bottom of the pan. That’s okay. When the pork is cooked, add groups 1 and 2 back into the pan and stir everything together. I poured a half cup of water into the hot pan and worked my spatula on the crusted sauce. It cleaned from the bottom of the pan easily and mixed with the water to create a nice sauce. If the water dries up and the sauce still sticks, add more water.
This is such a lovely dish or meal any time of year. I just really really love it in winter for the funky earthy combination of the shao xing and the dried mushroom, the hearty pork and tofu, and warming ginger. Most of all, it just feels like being loved because it’s my mom’s recipe.
love and goodness
Chinese Stir-Fried Tofu
from my mom
16 oz. fried tofu squares (if you fry it yourself, try this method)
1/2 lb. pork loin, sliced or julienned
4 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps Shao Xing cooking wine
1 tbsp corn starch
6-8 large leaves Napa cabbage
1 1/2 cups bamboo shoots, sliced
1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
3 tbsps vegetable oil
3 stalks green onions, julienned
1 tbsp fresh ginger, julienned, minced, or grated (depending on how you like your ginger)
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
Slice the fried tofu into 1/2-inch thick strips or triangles. Place the pork, soy sauce, Shao Xing cooking wine, and cornstarch in a bowl and mix together. Set aside. Trim the leafy parts of the Napa cabbage leaves from the ribs. Tear or cut the leafy parts into large bite-sized pieces (they will shrink when cooked). Slice the Napa cabbage ribs into 1/4-inch strips and keep separate from the leafy parts. If using dried Chinese mushrooms, rehydrate by soaking covered in boiling hot water until soft. Rinse the mushrooms clean (dried mushrooms can have a lot of sand or dirt) and squeeze as much water out as possible. For both fresh or rehydrated mushrooms, remove the stems and slice the tops into 1/2-inch strips.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over high heat (if you use a non-stick pan, you will need less oil). When the oil is hot, add the Napa cabbage ribs (not the leaves), and stir-fry for a few minutes until soft. Add the Napa cabbage leaves, bamboo shoots, and the mushrooms to the ribs and sauté until the leaves are wilted and cooked. Remove the contents to a medium or large bowl and return the pan to the burner. Heat another tablespoon of oil (on high) in the same pan and add the green onions and ginger. Stir until fragrant, about a minute, and add the fried tofu to the pan. Sauté for a couple of minutes and remove the contents to the same bowl as the Napa cabbage. Place the same pan on high heat and add the last tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork with all of the sauce and stir-fry until the meat is cooked. This takes about 3-5 minutes. Pour the tofu and vegetables into the pan with the pork and stir-fry everything together. If not using a non-stick type of pan and the sauce sticks to the bottom, add 1/4-1/2 cup of water to the hot pan and stir everything around while scraping the bottom. This incorporates the sauce back into the stir-fry. Serves 4.
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