braised tofu

I don’t really know what to call this tofu dish. It’s not really a stir fry. The tofu is sort of braised in the sauce but just barely so I guess it is a braised tofu dish. The key ingredients that go in this are the mushrooms that give the sauce a nice earthy mushroomy taste and not bland. So here’s how to make it.

Cut up some tofu into square pieces about 1 cm thick. I like to use medium firm tofu for this because that is the softest tofu I can handle without crumbling it. Some people like firmer tofu which is fine but I like my fried tofu to be soft in the center. Blot the pieces dry with a paper towel so that hot oil doesn’t splatter on you when you fry them. Add 2 tbsp of oil to a non-stick pan on medium-high heat and add the tofu. Get them brown on both sides.
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Take out the tofu and set them aside. To this new pan add some chopped garlic (however much you want), mushrooms, and whatever leftover vegetables you have in the fridge (carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, etc). I’m using fresh shiitake mushrooms and oyster mushrooms here because those are my two favorite. You can use any kind you like. Who am I to tell you what to do? (I may silently judge you from afar) Oh I should also tell you sometimes I add a few drops of sesame oil at this step if I’m in the mood. Sesame oil is such a strong flavor that a little goes a long way and sometimes I’m not always in the mood for that shit.
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Add a little salt to taste (not too much because you will be adding chicken stock later) and then splash in some of this Shao Xing rice wine. This part is crucial because Shao Xing rice wine has a really nice flavor that I haven’t found in other cooking wines.
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Add a teaspoon or so of oyster sauce and add enough chicken stock to come up to the top of the vegetables. Everything up to now has been vegan so if you want to go that route, use vegetable stock and skip the oyster sauce.
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I think I added some leftover broccolini at this point. Who knows exactly what I did? This dish is a little different every time I make it.
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Add the tofu back to the pan and turn things over so the tofu can braise in the delicious liquid.
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At this point you can thicken the sauce with some cornstarch/tapioca starch in water (1tsp starch/2 tbsp water) or just let the sauce reduce by itself.
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ABC Seafood Restaurant (St Petersburg)

This is one of the places my family goes to for good Chinese food. It’s a half hour drive from where we live but we really don’t have a choice since there are a lack of good Chinese food options in Sarasota area.

fish tanks (ABC seafood)

Salt and pepper calamari

salt and pepper calamari (ABC seafood)

Salt and pepper shrimp (See how to make it here)

salt and pepper shrimp (ABC seafood)

Seafood pan fried noodles

seafood pan fried noodles (ABC seafood)

Pipa Tofu

special braised tofu (ABC seafood)

Red bean soup dessert

red bean desert soup (ABC seafood)

Chinese New Year in Tallahassee

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of celebrating Chinese New Year with some friends in Tallahassee. This was an awesome weekend. My entire stay there revolved around food. Good food and good friends is all you need. So, Jia was throwing the party at his place and I was told there would be dumplings. I didn’t know how many, but from the facebook event it sounded like they might be scared. This was Chinese New Year and I would’ve gone Hulk if I didn’t get my dumplings. So Gan and I thought we should make something for the party, as we didn’t know what other things would be there. We decided to make asian hot wings and Vietnamese spring rolls.

For the hot wings, I decided to use a base of melted butter and hot sauce. I threw in whatever ingredients I found in Gan’s pantry to try to make them Asian. For the sauce, I mixed 1 stick of melted butter, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, and a few tablespoons of Sriracha hot sauce. I added chopped thai chili peppers to the sauce. I strained them out in in case the sauce was too spicy.
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I’m not sure what kind of seasoning sauce it is, but it’s got a little chef dude and a crab on the label. I’m assuming it’s some sort of fish based sauce. It’s not like fish sauce though (the one with a squid on the label). I think its more like a mixture of dark soy sauce and fish sauce.
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I marinaded a package of wings (I’m not sure how much it was, maybe a 5lb pack?), with some chili oil, fish seasoning sauce, and pepper. Gan added some cayenne pepper too. The marinade didn’t really work, since I only put in a few table spoons of each for a large amount of wings. If I were to go back, I’d add a cup of soy sauce and some chopped garlic.
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Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, flip them over, and another 20 minutes. Toss the wings in the sauce and garnish with cilantro.
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The wings didn’t turn out as Asian as I would’ve liked but they were delicious nonetheless. It’s kind of hard to mess up cooking wings. Just bake them and experiment with some sauces. From the picture, it looks spicy but it wasn’t at all. The sauce was pretty mild, but if you wanted some heat you could get some pieces with chili. This was my first time making chicken wings, and they came out really well. The insides were juicy and alot of the fat on the skin was rendered out during the baking.

We also made some vietnamese spring rolls. For these, you just need some rice paper and whatever filling you want to put in. We put on lettuce, carrots, cucumber, avocado, and shrimp. All you need to do is soak the rice paper in warm water, throw in a bunch of fillings, and roll. You don’t even need to soak the rice paper for that long. Just get the entire surface area of the rice paper wet then take them out. As soon as you take them out, place them on a cutting board. They’ll seem like they’re still hard but after a few more seconds on its own they’ll soften up and get all sticky.

If you hate peeling and cutting avocados, the way I do it is pretty fool proof. Cut through the avocado along the centerline until you reach the pit and then just rotate the avocado along the blade of the knife to cut around the pit.
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Then just twist off the two halves.
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Take the half with the pit, strike your knife on the pit so that the knife is lodged in the pit and twist the knife to get the pit out. You could also use a spoon to get the pit out if using a knife scares you.
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Then just cut the halves in half lengthwise and you can peel off the skin to get 4 beautiful pieces of avocado. You could also use a spoon to remove the skin.
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Our spring roll station. Gan makes a great hand model.
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Here’s a video if you’re into that sort of thing. For some reason, it’s not letting me embed the video and it’s 4am so I’m too lazy to figure out why.

All this took only took a little over 1 hour. The wings took less than an hour to make not counting prep time. Gan prepped the vegetables while I made the wings and once the wings were in the oven we had 3 pairs of hands (me, Gan, Amy) to make the spring rolls. You could substitute the shrimp with tofu and make it vegan also. On it’s own, it’s already healthful. You can serve this with store bought sweet chili sauce.
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At the party, Jia and Ted made a ton of dumplings and had a lot of filling left over. I was afraid they’d be all gone by the time I got there, but that was hardly the case. Everyone had eaten by the time Gan and I arrived with our food but we still managed to clear the wings and most of the spring rolls. I guess that means they were good!

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I think this was a pretty good shot of the dumplings.
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Here’s one I made into the typical gyoza form.
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I have to give my props the Jia. The dumplings were excellent and the soy sauce braised tofu and eggs his mom made were delicious. That’s one of the foods that really makes me nostalgic and homesick. It’s a simple recipe and prep too. I don’t know what my parents put in it exactly but it’s a bath of soy sauce diluted with water and chinese spices (cloves, star anise, peppercorns, and other things) and you just simmer boiled eggs, tofu, and tough cuts of meat in the bath. On the right you can see Ted’s stir fried noodles also. If you can find them in the picture, there were also some chinese sausages, pistachios, and scallion pancakes.

Here’s round 1 for me. My favorite were definitely the tofu (bottom) and eggs. I think the slices of meat in the picture was beef that was cooked in the same bath. On the top is a piece of scallion pancake.
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The food was amazing. This was the next best thing to going home and spending Chinese New Year with my family. The tofu and eggs really made it for me.