Yesterday was the Chinese New Year - Happy Year of the Snake!
Mapo Tofu is a spicy Chinese comfort food. And, spicy it is! This recipe is a mild soft tofu dish for those of you who can't stand the heat. :-) Really, there is nothing missing from this recipe - rich flavors but no heat. The soft tofu has a soothing texture that is unlike anything else. Give it a try.
This is a stir fry so make sure you have all your ingredients ready to go, measured out and accessible, before you start. Stirfries happen fast and you can't be looking for the cornstarch in the middle of things.
Bean Curd with Oyster Sauce
(serves 4, costs $2.70)
1 pound soft tofu, drained and cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, chopped
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce (see Notes)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
a pinch of black pepper
½ cup vegetable stock
½ Tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil (see Notes)
Heat the oil in a skillet or wok over high heat. Add the garlic and scallions. Cook for about 20-30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the bean curd cubes, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, and stock. Gently stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes. Give the cornstarch/water mixture a stir to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved and add to the pan. Stir and bring to a boil. The cornstarch won't thicken until it comes to a boil. It will also become translucent and shiny as it thickens. Remove from heat and add the sesame oil. Serve over rice.
Notes: Though oyster sauce is usually made with fish or shellfish, there are vegetarian versions available.
Roasted sesame oil has a very distinctive flavor. It's an important flavor in hot and sour soup and Mu Shu Pork. Look for it in the Asian ingredient section of your supermarket. Keep it in a cool, dark place and it will keep a very long time. Its flavor breaks down when heated so we add it as garnish after the dish is completed.