This is another recipe from one of Fuchsia Dunlop’s wonderful scholarly cookbooks on Chinese food – The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. This book concentrates on the food of the Hunan province, which was Mao Zedong’s home province, so it is this style of cooking that features in many Chairman Mao’s favorite dishes. During the ‘great leap forward’ and its brutal restructure of the Chinese economy, home cooking was banned in many parts of China in favour of communal kitchens and a collectivist canteen style of eating. Somehow, Chinese home cooking has survived through these social and economic upheavals, which says a lot about the resilience of Chinese people and their culture, of which, food is such an integral part.
There are many versions of home-style tofu which is pan fried or deep fried tofu, simmered in broth with chilli and other seasonings. Like the best of Chinese home cooking, it is simple, frugal and delicious. This version of home-style tofu comes from the Taiwanese restaurant of the legendary Hunanese chef, Peng Chang-kuei. I’ve made it vegetarian by cutting out the ground pork and using a simple vegetarian stock made from simmered black beans (recipe below).
Peng’s home-style tofu
Adapted from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop
- 550 grams (1¼ pound) firm but tender tofu
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms (optional)
- 3 spring onions (green parts only), sliced finely
- 2 fresh red chillis cut in half and sliced finely with seeds removed
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons salted black beans, rinsed
- 200 mls/7 fluid oz. vegetarian stock (see below)
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of cornflour mixed 1 tablespoon cold water
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons of chilli oil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of cornflour blended with 1 tablespoon of cold water
- Oil for frying.
- Cut tofu into 1 cm slices, slice in half and into triangles. Drain on kitchen paper for about half an hour.
- Soak mushrooms in hot water for half an hour, cut off stems and slice caps.
- Heat stir fry pan or wok and add about 3 tablespoons of oil. Fry tofu on both sides until golden brown, drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
- Add more oil to pan (about 2 tablespoons). Add garlic, chillies and fry for a few seconds until fragrant, add mushrooms and black beans and fry until fragrant. Then pour in stock, add bean curd and dark soy sauce let simmer for a few minutes for flavours to meld. Salt to taste and add cornflour and green onion simmer until sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat add sesame oil and chilli oil. Serve with rice and greens.
Black Bean Stock
- 1¾ litre of water
- 50 grams of salted black beans (rinsed).
- Bring black beans and water to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain off black beans and reserve stock.
- Stock will keep for up to week in the refrigerator and can be frozen.