Oh hi again.  Sorry for the lapse in activity… I’ve been doing more important things like eating out and watching trashy reality tv shows.  Ah what can I say?  I’m getting as much out of the “but it’s winter” excuse as possible.  Anyway, here are two dishes that I cook fairly frequently and which I have adapted to fit my own tastes.  They’re easy to make in conjunction with one another and the tofu is so good even my boyfriend, a self-proclaimed tofu hater, liked it.  YOU SEE, that just attests to the fact that people who say they dislike tofu don’t know what they’re talking about.  They haven’t had their minds blown by Chinese cuisine.  Yet.  The only problem with my tofu dish is that there are many different kinds of 5-spice tofu (aka 5-spice bean curd or pressed tofu, etc etc…. they all just look like shrink-wrapped packages of brown stuff) and each has its own consistency, flavor, shelf life, whatnot.  After years and years of trying many different brands, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best was right under my nose, the kind my parents always buy in Boston. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the brand name is or where it’s from, as my crude knowledge of written Chinese only goes so far as 1st grade vocabulary: “Hello, You are my friend.  This is my teacher.  Goodbye.”  (NOTE: During my last trip to the motherland, I did manage to figure out “hotel” all by myself.  Who says you can’t still learn!?).  So in lieu of specifics, I have provided a picture of my tofu packaging in the hopes that you too will find something similar.  Just locate the tofu section at your local Asian grocery store and look for the dark brown blocks, usually separated into four squares/rectangles and shrink-wrapped.  Good luck….

Chopped up the veggies.  Mmmmm….

Note the juiciness of the broccoli flower on the right side compared to the left side.  I usually guesstimate how much longer my cook time will be based on when the broccoli plumps.  These guys on the right look pretty plump, so I only cooked them for another 3-5 minutes on medium-high heat.

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic

1 head broccoli (preferably organic.  Yes, I’m one of those people)

salt to taste

1-2 tbsp oyster sauce

vegetable oil

1/2 to 1 c water

—-

3 cloves garlic (optional)

2 large carrots or 3 medium carrots

3 celery stalks

1 package 5-spice tofu (bean curd)

salt to taste

a splash of soy sauce (optional)

chicken bouillon pellets (optional)

vegetable oil

Equipment:

A wok (preferably non-stick.  Non-stick defeats the purpose of woks as they are supposed to be used!)

A lid for the wok

How to Make:

Broccoli

Roughly chop garlic.  Cut broccoli florets off stem and set aside.  It’s best not to have any exceptionally large pieces, as these may take longer to cook.  Slice broccoli stems diagonally up its length.  You can cut these in half length-wise if you prefer to chew less.  Or you could reserve and make a broccoli stem salad (shred into little pieces, as you would a carrot slaw, add sesame oil, black vinegar, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and salt.  Mix!  Done!).

Heat vegetable oil in a wok on medium-high heat.  I usually add enough oil to cover 50-75% of the bottom of the wok and swirl it around to coat.  Let the oil get hot (about 1-2″) and toss in the garlic.  Cook garlic 1 or 2 minutes or until it’s sizzling pretty consistently.  Now toss in all the broccoli, add a sprinkling of salt, and about 1/2 to 1 cup of water.  Cover with lid.  This is the point where I usually start chopping up the celery and carrots for the tofu dish.

After about 5 to 8 minutes, check on your broccoli.  When they’re plump and not raw looking (I know that’s a vague description, but just reference the photo above!), toss it around to make sure that all the pieces are cooked evenly.  Add the oyster sauce and mix in.  Leave broccoli in the wok for a few more minutes with the lid off.  I like mine well-done, so I usually take it off the heat when I can see the florets falling apart a bit.  If you prefer some crunch, I’d say cook for only an extra minute and transfer to a plate.

Tofu

Roughly chop garlic and set aside.  Cut the carrots and celery into thin 1.5″ to 2″ strips.  I know this is tedious, but it’s well worth it!  To speed up the celery chopping, segment it into 3 or 4 pieces and then press down on top of it (convex part facing you, it should look like a mini tunnel atop your cutting board) to flatten it out.  Easier and faster to cut this way.  I have no tips for the carrots.  I’m probably going to get carpal tunnel at an early age due to my lack of knife skills and cheapo butcher knife.

Heat oil up in a wok, again covering 50-75% of the wok with oil.  Toss in garlic once the oil is hot.  Cook until there’s a good sizzle.  Toss in the carrots and celery.  Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water, a light sprinkling of salt over the entire area, and mix together.  Now prepare the tofu by cutting each piece so that they’re half as thick as before.  Cut these pieces width-wise.  Actually, you could cut them lengthwise but if they’re too long, they may fall apart or fragment in the wok.

When the carrots are almost cooked (try one!), add the tofu to the wok.  Like I said, usually by the time you’re done cutting tofu, the vegetables should be about ready.  Mix mix mix.  Add a pinch more salt.  Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, tossing a couple of times in between.  Now add the soy sauce and chicken bouillon pellets.  Mix mix mix.  Cook a bit longer (3-5 minutes).  If you want some extra crisp in your vegetables, this is the point where you can turn the heat up to high.  Transfer to a bowl/plate. 

Add water to the wok immediately!  DO NOT WASH WITH SOAP OR DETERGENTS IF YOU HAVE A “STICK” WOK OR ELSE YOU WILL POISON YOURSELF WITH CHEMICALS!  Perhaps my way of cleaning my wok is not the best, but I haven’t died yet and do not think I am sick so….. yes that’s good enough.  I generally leave the water in the wok until I’m done eating, after which I give it a few good rinses under the tap.  Then I wipe it down once and try to get as much brown crud off of it as possible.  Rinse again and wipe down again.  Good to go for the next time!

Note: I should warn that my way of cooking tofu is not exactly “correct.”  It’s more lazy and good enough.  Ideally, you cook the tofu and vegetables separately and then toss together, not cook the vegetables and then add the uncooked tofu.  But whatever I do what I want.

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