Monday, February 25, 2013

Meatless Monday: Mu Shu Tofu

Mu Shu "Something" is a staple when we head out for Chinese food. There are a few speciality ingredients in the typical restaurant Mu Shu: dried shiitake mushrooms, dried lily buds, tree ear mushrooms, and Hoisin sauce. We substituted more common vegetables - cabbage, carrots, and bamboo shoots - but kept the seasoning the same. The Hoisin sauce and toasted sesame oil are important flavors here, so don't leave them out. You can find both of them at most supermarkets in the Asian ingredient section. They last a very long time (Hoisin sauce in the fridge, sesame oil in a dark, cool cabinet) so you'll have them for the next time you break out the wok.

Tofu isn't as dense as pork or chicken but it does a great job of blending in with the other ingredients. Frozen and thawed tofu is a little drier and absorbs flavors better. You can freeze it in a block and cut it after it thaws, but we recommend you slice it, then freeze it on a cookie sheet. It will freeze and thaw a bit faster this way.

Though the prep takes a bit of time, the dish comes together fast.

Flour tortillas are the usual easy-to-find substitution for the Chinese flour pancakes. Rice paper wrappers are hardly traditional, but they are a lighter alternative to the tortillas. If you can find them - look in Asian markets and some supermarkets - they are quite economical, and a delicious change from the flour pancakes.

Mu Shu Tofu
(serves 4-6; costs $7.90)

Tofu and Marinade
14-16 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced ½" thick, frozen, and thawed
2 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon cornstarch

4 Tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
2 eggs, beaten
2 scallions, white part minced and green part cut into 1" lengths
1 5 oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
¼ medium head green cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, julienned

Seasoning Mix
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sesame oil
about 6 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
12 6" flour tortillas or 12 rice paper wrappers (8" size)

Lay tofu slices on paper towels, cover with more paper towels, and blot up some of the moisture by gently squeezing down on the slices. Cut tofu slices into ½" sticks. Toss with 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and cornstarch in a bowl. Get all the other ingredients prepped and ready to go. This is a stir fry and it goes fast.

If you are using flour tortillas, warm them and keep them warm until the stir fry is complete.

Heat a large wok or skillet until very hot. Add 1 Tablespoons oil. Add the egg and quickly scramble it. Remove the egg to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil. Add tofu. Stir fry tofu for 3 minutes. Remove to bowl with egg. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil. Add the minced white part of the scallions, bamboo shoots, cabbage, and carrot. Stir fry until the cabbage is starting to wilt but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the green scallion pieces, egg, tofu, and seasoning mix ingredients. Cook for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.

If using flour tortillas, smear a tortilla with ½ Tablespoon Hoisin sauce, put in about ½ cup of the stir fry, and roll up.

If using rice paper wrappers, dip a wrapper in hot tap water to soften (see Note), lay out flat, smear on ½ Tablespoon Hoisin sauce, add about ½ cup of the stir fry, and roll up.

Note: Rice paper wrappers can be a little tricky. Once they soften up, they stick to themselves like glue. To prevent this, don't leave them in the water too long. Dip in the water, flip it over and pull it out of the water just as it starts to get pliable. At this point, it will be easy to lay it out flat. The wrapper will continue to soften after that, making it easy to roll up.

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