Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chinese New Year Meal #4: Peng's Home-Style Bean Curd

I will lead off by saying this, it really is difficult for tofu to be delicious.  Or at least it is difficult for it to compete against dumplings, noodles and Xinjiang lamb kebobs.  But I have to say (and I think Alex would agree) that this dish was my least favorite of our Chinese New Year meals thus far.  It was good, we both just expected the tofu to soak up more flavor.  There were a bunch of potent ingredients used in the dish - fermented black beans, chicken stock, soy, chili oil and sesame oil.  But the tofu turned out a little bland.  We were both expecting a lot more flavor.  I also felt like the sauce was a little oily/greasy.  To be perfectly honest, it was a decent amount of work frying the tofu and then braising it in the sauce for only a moderate payoff.  The pork slivers were tasty.  But the rest of it was just kind of ehhh for me.  Or at least it was ehhh in comparison to the other Chinese dishes we have made as part of Chinese New Year.  I'm glad we finally made it because I have been interested in making the dish for awhile, but there are definitely better tofu recipes out there (including some of the recipes on the blog).

Recipe after the jump!

Peng's Home-Style Bean Curd
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province
By Fuchsia Dunlop

3 oz. boneless lean pork, thinly sliced
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp salt
1 block firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced on the bias
2 fresh red chilis, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp dark soy sauce
3/4 tsp potato flour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp chili oil (optional)
1 cup peanut oil for deep frying

Put the pork in a bowl.  Add Shaoxing wine and salt and mix well.  Set aside.

Heat the oil for deep-frying over high heat until it reaches 350-400 degrees F.  Add the tofu in batches, frying until slices are just tinged with gold.  Drain and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Pour off the oil, reserving 3 tbsp.  Clean the wok, then reheat over high until smoke rises.  Add the reserved oil and swirl it around.  Add the garlic and chilis and sizzle for a few seconds until fragrant.  Add the pork and as it becomes pale, throw in the black beans, stirring continuously.  When everything is hot and fragrant, add stock, tofu and dark soy sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for several minutes to allow the flavors of the sauce to enter the tofu.  Season with salt to taste, if necessary.

Add the potato flour mixture and stir as the liquid thickens.  Add scallions.  Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil and chili oil (if using).  Serve.

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