Tag Archives: bok choy

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

Ma-Po Eggplant Tofu Stew

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew, served with a fresh Japanese Turnip Pickle

It started with the turnips. Japanese turnips, fresh from the garden. This inspired me to use the fermented black beans, which I picked up at an Asian grocery store on a whim one (+) year ago. Sometimes my food-association astounds me. The fermented black beans led me to the question: “What do I do with these?”. Apparently not a whole lot that I could find. It is however the main ingredient of Doubanjiang, a Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. Doubanjiang is also the star ingredient for Ma Po Tofu, a spicy wok tofu dish from the Sichuan province. And thus the dish was born! To add to the difficulty, I could not find a recipe for Doubanjiang, as apparently it is much more sane common to use the pre-made sauce. Doubanjiang is also called toban djan, lado ban jiang, or Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. After much searching, I found a base recipe that looked to match the ingredient label of a common pre-made sauce. The end result of this inspiration was a spicy hot-and-sour soup alternative that is addictive and delicious. Sometimes my crazy food-association games turn out better than even I could dream of!

As I do not own a wok, I didn’t want to compromise my first Ma Po Tofu experience with sub-par equipment, so I turned the concept into a stew. To help this I added eggplant and bok choy, with the final result of a spicy hot and sour soup type dish. The results were amazing. It will warm your soul, tickle your taste buds, and clear your sinuses. The soft tofu is almost unnoticeable (a concern for me and my texture issues). The eggplant and dried mushrooms add some texture, the greens colour, and the consommé (fancy word for clear broth) is absolutely divine. It will trick anybody into thinking that you slaved over a hot stove for hours building complex flavour, instead of the 45min. that it takes. I served the stew with a quick turnip pickle, to highlight the turnip inspiration. The robust flavour is due to the homemade Doubanjiang, and the fermented black beans. Of course, you can use the bought sauce – I’m sure it’d be just as delicious, and perhaps even more true to the Ma Po Tofu inspiration.

The Doubanjiang took less than 15min. to make, and most of that was rinsing the black beans. The black beans are fermented in salt, and right out of the package they’re like eating a salt lick. Make sure you rinse them very very well! The amount of Thai chilis seem excessive for only 2/3 cup of sauce, but if you think of the sauce as a spicy soy sauce, its more reasonable. I didn’t have the yellow rice wine or the dark rice vinegar, so I googled “appropriate” substitutions more common in my kitchen. Next time I will try to make the recipe as written, but this version was fantastic. The sauce itself was like a spicy vinegar soy sauce which was quite thick. I am not in the habit of having pre-made stir fry sauces on hand, but I am assuming this’d be fantastic with a quick Asian vegetable stir-fry. I tailored the recipe to use the full amount in the stew, and it was perfect!

This dish is sure to impress. Different and exotic, it is one I will be making again!

 

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

4 dried flower mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

⅔ cup doubanjiang sauce (lado ban jiang, toban djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

4 cups eggplant, diced into ½” cubes (1 med.)

350g. soft tofu, drained and diced into ½” cubes

4+ cups water

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

3 cups bok choy, chopped

2 tbsp. Sriracha

4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

Directions:

1) In small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 1” boiling water. Let soak for 30min., until soft.

2) In large pot, sauté garlic in 2 tbsp. of water on high, stirring frequently. Sauté until garlic slightly brown.

3) Stir in doubanjiang. Sauté for 1min.

4) Add the eggplant, stir. Cover and sauté until eggplant begins to get soft, approx. 5min. Add water as necessary to prevent sticking.

5) Add tofu and water. Stir very gently, so as to not break the tofu. Bring to a low boil.

6) Drain the mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces.

7) Add the sliced mushrooms and rice vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until eggplant tender, approx. 10min.

8) Add the bok choy and Sriracha. Stir and bring to a simmer.

9) Turn off heat, stir in scallions.

10) Serve with rice or Asian noodles of choice.

 

Doubanjiang Sauce (Lado Ban Jiang, Toban Djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

10 fresh red Thai chilis, minced

⅓ cup fermented black beans

1 tbsp. yellow rice wine (sub: gin, white wine; I used rice vinegar)

2 tsp. dark rice vinegar (sub: balsamic vinegar)

½ tsp. Sucanet

Directions:

1) With a fine mesh strainer, rinse the black beans really well, to remove all excess salt.

2) In small saucepan, sauté chilis and black beans in 2 tbsp. water on medium-low until fragrant, approx. 2-3min.

3) Add rice wine and rice vinegar. Simmer 3min. Add water as necessary for consistency.

4) Stir in Sucanet and remove from heat. Let cool completely

5) Store in mason jar in fridge: will keep for 3 weeks

Makes ⅔ cups of sauce


Khao Soi Thai Curry

Khao Soi Thai Curry

Khao Soi Thai Curry is a dish that hails from Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is completely different from all other Thai curries I have tried in the past, and completely delicious. Traditionally it is a noodle dish, with a spicy coconut-based curry sauce drenching the noodles. With some crunchy noodles to top off the dish. What intrigued me about this dish was the use of picked sour mustard greens, which I picked up at my local grocery store because I had never heard of them. The other curiosity was the method of the curry paste. Instead of the traditional ginger/lemongrass/herbs/fresh chilies, this one uses roasted dried red chillies ground into a paste with some ginger, shallot, garlic, coriander, and turmeric. I had only seen that technique before with Indian curries, so I knew I had to try this out!

I took inspiration from this recipe found here: Herbivoracious – Khao Soi Thai Curry Noodles. However, I was more in the mood for a vegetable based curry, so I made some significant additions to the recipe. A brief moment of panic near the end of my creation – I had forgotten about the noodles! The dish as I made it however was superb. The curry paste has so much flavour – it definitely packs a wallop even for this spice lover! The vegetables were a lovely counter balance to the tofu, giving the dish different textures. For serving, I chiffonade the picked sour mustard greens and added them to the curry pot. Their tang added that extra dimension to the curry sauce, making it a well-rounded bowl of bliss. Unique and different, this curry is definitely a go-to recipe in the future. Maybe next time I’ll even remember the noodles!

Khao Soi Thai Curry

Curry Paste:

5 large, whole dried red chilis (pasilla, ancho, New Mexico), stemmed

½ cup shallot, diced

2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

½ tsp. garlic, minced

½ tsp. coriander seeds

1 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. garam masala

Directions:

1) In large pot (save on dishes!) dry roast chilis on medium for 2min.

2) Add shallot, ginger, and garlic. Stir continuously and cook until chilis very fragrant

3) Add coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. Stir to combine.

4) Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

5) Puree mixture in blender with ¼ cup water until thick paste forms. *NOTE* This mixture stained my blender. To let it rest, I highly suggest pouring it into a bowl. Unless you don’t mind turmeric-stained blenders 🙂

Curry:

3 (13.8oz.) cans coconut milk (5¼ cups) OR almond milk

¼ cup light soy sauce

2 tsp. Sucanet

1 (454g.) package firm tofu, cut into ½” cubes

Salt, to taste

1 cup (+) water

Juice of 4 limes

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 cup Chinese pickled mustard greens OR 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage tossed in ¼ cup white vinegar

Optional additional vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, bok choy (or other Asian greens), cherry tomatoes

Version depicted above: 2 chinese eggplants, cut into ½” moons

2 small zucchini, cut into ½” moons

1 cup cherry tomatoes

4 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

1) In large pot pour 1 can coconut milk (1¾ cup). Simmer on medium until milk begins to separate

2) Stir in half of the curry paste, soy sauce, and Sucanet. Simmer until thick enough to coat back of spoon, approx. 10min.

3) Add tofu and optional vegetables. Simmer 10min.

4) Add remaining chili paste, coconut milk, and water. Simmer approx. 5min.

5) Add lime juice, cilantro, and Chinese picked mustard greens. Stir and remove from heat.

6) Serve with noodles.


Green Thai Curry

Green Thai Curry

This green Thai curry is a staple. Once you make it, you will crave it. It has also successfully proven to self-professed tofu-haters that tofu shouldn’t be pronounced with a wrinkled nose. (Try not to gloat when they go for seconds!) The green Thai curry paste is made fresh and is very easy: just throw everything into a food processor. The heady combination of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, and heat from the hot chilis (to taste) win me over every time. The fresh cilantro is a must – it brings spring to the dish. I prefer ginger in this recipe to galangal as I think it matches better with the acid from the lemongrass and lime juice, but that is completely my preference. The best part about this recipe is that even though the list of ingredients looks very long, you probably have most of it already in your pantry, and since most of it goes into the food processor, clean-up is easy and cooking time is much shorter than you’d expect. This curry goes well with rice or vermicelli, but I won’t stop you from eating it straight up like soup!
After many trials and numerous iterations of this dish, I have compiled these rules of thumb for guaranteed success:

1) Sautéing the fresh curry paste makes all the difference. Like dry roasting spices for Indian curries, this is when the lemongrass and heat really start to come out. Once fragrant, you will have to have serious restraint from not eating the sauce as is!

2) When you add the tofu to soak up all the curry paste flavour, add the eggplant as well. Double the flavour with two different textures!

3) Usually I add all the coconut milk to the food processor to help the paste come together. If you have a better food processor than I, you could probably proceed with the recipe as-written. I find though that if I don’t add the extra liquid, I could do a better job making a paste by chopping things finely than my food processor.

4) If you don’t have coconut milk on hand, I’ve recently discovered that almond milk makes an amazing substitute! I am sure curry purists around the world have just gotten very angry with me, but when you need some Green Thai Curry a little matter of no coconut milk won’t stop me! This successful trial makes me believe that rice milk or hemp milk would also make for excellent substitutions.

5) The best suited vegetables for this dish are:
– Eggplant: A must!
– Zucchini: So lovely and tender
– One or more crunchy green vegetable such as green beans, snap peas, bell pepper, or asparagus
– A leafy green such as bok choy (spinach will also work)
– Cherry tomatoes: Or as I like to call them, Tomato Bombs of Flavour.

6) Add the cherry tomatoes at the very very end – with your greens. The “cherry bomb” in your mouth is so worth the restraint!

7) If you can find them, the kaffir lime leaves are a must. I store them in the freezer, and use as needed. They will transform your South Asian dishes from “really good” to “how can it get any better?!?!?”. They are the curry leaves of Asian cuisine. Add them with the green curry paste, and the lime flavour is heightened further!

This dish will turn your kitchen into a little taste of Thailand with its aromas and taste. Quick to make and quicker to devour, this is a classic!

The recipe can be found here: Vegetarian Green Thai Curry


Mushroom Wonton Soup

Wonton soup … the Chinese restaurant staple. My sister judges the quality of the Chinese restaurant by their wonton soup. Once the wontons are made, it’s a simple, quick dinner that is easily adaptable to the contents of your fridge. Just another example of comfort food in a bowl. Wontons themselves are very easy to prepare, and are assembled quicker than their Ukrainian cousins, the perogi. Like all dumplings, they are also infinitely adaptable as to fillings. Generally, I like to fill my dumplings with ‘culture neutral’ flavour profiles, so I know that the dumpling will match whatever gets thrown into the pot for consumption. So no black bean-mole wontons this time – although I’m not saying that the combination would be horrible!

For the wonton wrappers you can buy pre-made and pre-cut wonton squares at the grocery store or Asian market, but I opted to make my own. Pre-made would probably be easier, but making the dough is simple and the dough is very easy to work with. No difficulties making the cute little ‘Nurses hats’ with this assembly! I didn’t cook the wontons when I made them and instead froze them uncooked. Then, when you are ready to enjoy some wonton soup (or just the wontons by themselves with some sautéed greens!), stick them directly in the pot with the other goodies and they cook within 10 mins. Simple!

Mushroom Wontons

 Wonton Wrappers

1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup spelt flour (or 1 cup quinoa flour for Gluten Free)
½ tsp. salt
½ cup warm water

Directions:
1) In large bowl, sift together flours and salt.
2) Slowly add warm water, mixing as you pour.
3) Knead dough for ~10 min., until smooth ball forms
4) Cover with clean dishtowel and let rest 20 min.
 
Mushroom Wonton Filling

I used this recipe found here.

You can create your own filling combinations as you see fit. I have made wontons before with tofu, scallions, other vegetables, or with edamame. This filling is delicious however, and has not met a wonton soup combination it does not like! Follow these instructions for wonton assembly, and you will have an army of wontons in no time!

An Army of Wontons, ready for the soup pot!

For the soup, generally I use my Miso Soup guidelines for the flavour profile, which allows the wontons to pick up on the vegetable and broth flavours while cooking. Miso Soup is another comfort food staple, and the ratios of the soup pot is entirely dependent on what needs to be used in the fridge. I like my soup to be more like a stew, while I know others who would scoff at my interpretation and insist on a couple of scallions, a cup of mushrooms, and 8 litres of broth. To each their own – it’s delicious no matter how you cook it! My guidelines for Miso Soup are below.

Wonton/Miso Soup Guidelines

½ cup cauliflower florets
½ cup broccoli florets, or 1 cup Chinese broccoli, cut into 1″ pieces
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup shredded greens: kale, napa cabbage, bok choi, or more Chinese broccoli work well!
1-2 scallions, sliced into 1″ pieces
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Optional: dash of sesame oil, tofu, edamame …

Wonton Soup: Add as many wontons as you like! Generally I add 2-4

Miso Soup: Add 1 tbsp. miso paste – red miso is my favourite

Directions:
1) In pot, add broccoli and cauliflower. Cover with lid and turn on high heat. You want to steam and slightly burn the cauliflower and broccoli.
2) Watching carefully, give the pot a shake now and then to make sure the vegetables don’t burn too much.
3) Add the carrots, cover, and steam approximately 30s.
4) Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Bring to a boil. (If making wonton soup, add wontons with the water)
5) Add all remaining vegetables. Lower heat to a simmer, and let simmer approximately 5 min.
6) If making miso soup, add the miso paste. Be careful not to let the soup boil with the miso – this ruins some of the miso flavour
7) Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and Sriracha!


Ginger Garlic Thai Stir-Fry

While on my most recent 3h trip to the Asian market, after getting distracted by the variety of produce, the whole aisle of noodles and cooking spices and sauces, I made it to the frozen section. Already laden down with supplies of ingredients that I sort-of-remembered reading about and therefore had to experiment with and supplementing my stash of curry leaves, rampe, Thai basil, and kaffir lime leaves I found the “veggie meat”. As always when in an Asian market, I am suspicious of the English on the package, especially when the package looks exactly like shrimp. And is beside the real shrimp. A quick scan of the ingredients promised “glutinous” something, which I took to mean that this mysterious shrimp-looking like thing was indeed “veggie shrimp” and into the basket it went. How could I resist? I’d have to save the jackfruit for another day – but in the meanwhile my busy brain was trying to figure out how to honour this theme ingredient.

 

I don’t cook with mock meat usually – I prefer to call a spade a spade and use tofu, tempeh, or if I’m really ambitious some homemade seitan. But “veggie shrimp”? It was begging to be tried. I decided that I wanted something Thai, and something ‘clean’, so I could taste the shrimp. No use experimenting with an ingredient if you are just going to disguise the taste with a spicy red curry sauce! I was thinking the heady combination of ginger and garlic, and wanted some zip to come from the lime leaves and lemongrass … and with the necessary addition of Thai chillies, this dish was born.

 

For the first time (ever) I made a concentrated effort at writing down what I was throwing into the saucepan. Turns out my efforts are not wasted – this dish was crisp, clean, and simple. Refreshing and easy to make, it had some nice heat from the Thai chillies I used but wasn’t too spicy. The veggie shrimp was interesting for a novelty item, but I cannot say it replaces tofu in my heart. I dry-sautéed the chillies, lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, ginger, and peanuts. This made the kitchen smell amazing, and really highlighted the lemongrass. I served it with vermicelli, but rice would soak up the sauce and be lovely as well.

 

Ginger Garlic Thai Stir-Fry

Serves 2-4

Time: 20min (ish)

Ingredients

1T. lemongrass, minced
1T. fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 kaffir lime leaves
3 red Thai chillies, chopped
0.25c. peanuts, unsalted
1 package (180g) “veggie shrimp” (or extra-firm tofu, cut into whatever fun shape you want!)

 
1.5T. soy sauce, divided
1.5T. rice wine vinegar, divided
3c. bok choy, chopped (or 2 heads baby bok choy)
1 medium carrot, sliced on the bias
~0.3c. asparagus, cut into 5cm pieces (Tip: separate the stalks from the tops. You will be adding them at different times!)
3 green onions, roughly chopped

 
lime juice
fresh cilantro

 
1 bundle vermicelli

 
Other stir fry additions that would be excellent:
– mung bean sprouts, (chinese) broccoli, napa cabbage (instead of bok choy), bell peppers …

 

Directions:

1) Prepare the vermicelli as per package directions
2) Preheat a large pan (or wok, if you have it) on medium heat
3) Add the lemongrass and chillies to pan. Stir frequently so as not to burn. Sauté until fragrant
4) Add the ginger, garlic, and peanuts. Stir frequently. Sauté until peanuts lightly roasted
5) Add veggie shrimp, and sear each side of the shrimp.
6) Add 1T. soy sauce and 1T. rice wine vinegar to mixture. Stir and cover. Stir fry until veggie shrimp warmed through
7) Time to add the stir fry veg! If throughout the stir fry the pan is looking dry, add splashes of water. This also helps deglaze the pan.
8) Add the carrots and asparagus stalks. Stir and cook until stalks bright green and carrots almost to the crunchiness of your liking
9) Add the green onions, asparagus tops, and bok choy. Sauté until bok choy is bright green and wilted
10) Splash remaining 0.5T. of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar into mixture. Stir.
11) Turn off heat, add lime juice (to taste). Taste for seasonings. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve over vermicelli.


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