Tag Archives: tofu

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


Burmese Tofu

Burmese tofu is traditionally soy-free, and uses besan (chickpea flour) instead of soy beans. Intrigued, I decided to try it out. With limited recipes to try out, all will different ratios of the same ingredients, I decided to add to the mix another recipe. With just three ingredients you can make your own tofu that is eons better than the purchased soft soy tofu. Once it has set in the fridge, you can use it just as you would any other tofu product. For the first batch, half went to a chocolate mousse recipe that turned out to be like chocolate halva, and the second half was sliced and baked in the oven along with the roasting squash de jour. Both uses were utterly fantastic, and since I have made three more batches of tofu. I don’t know how the same ingredients as for socca can turn out so different, but it’s magical what happens when you whisk the mixture! Impress yourself, impress your friends, and whip up your own tofu!

Burmese Tofu

1½ cup besan (chickpea flour) (Note: Other bean flours may work too!)
4 cups water
pinch of salt

Directions:
1) Grease a 9×13” pan. Set aside
2) In heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together chickpea flour and salt.
3) Slowly add water, whisking continuously to ensure no lumps.
4) Turn burner onto medium-high heat. Whisk continuously until mixture thickens, approx. 7-8min. Mixture should be the consistency of thick pudding.
5) Pour into greased 9×13” pan. Smooth top, and let cool. (Note: Other size pans would be neat! You can shape your tofu to whatever you want!)
6) Chill in fridge for 30min-12h. The longer it chills, the firmer it gets.
7) Cut into slices and use!

Options: use as a soft tofu, in baked goods, in mousse, slice and bake for tofu strips … when used in mousse acts just like silken tofu. To make your own tofu strips, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place tofu strips on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with seasonings (optional), and bake at 375oF for 20-30min. Remove from oven and enjoy! The outer layer will be crisp and the inside is gloriously creamy. I freeze them for portable snack options.

Step-by-Step Pictures:

                     

1) Whisk together all ingredients

Burmese Tofu1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Continuously whisk on medium-high until reaches consistency of thick pudding (Note the whisk tracks!)

Burmese Tofu2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Pour into 9″x13″ pan and smooth. Let set.

Burmese Tofu - Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Burmese Tofu Sticks, with a sprinkle of black pepper. Yum!

Burmese Tofu Sticks


White Bean Farro Soup and West African Mafe

On the surface, these Italian and West African soups have very little in common – aside from being served in a bowl. Dig a little deeper and you will find both in Terry Hope Romero’s new(ish) cookbook Vegan Eats World. When I learned that she was planning a new cookbook as a follow up to the excellent Viva Vegan! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It took some serious constraint and a severe warning/spoiler that I would be getting it for Christmas so I wouldn’t jump the gun. One of the best Christmas presents ever!

Vegan Eats World clearly demonstrates Terry’s love for authentic dishes from around the world. All are researched to the hilt to make them as legitimate as possible, which is a must. My general approach to opening the world in my kitchen is to Google a country, find some traditional dishes, and write down the ingredients and troop to the appropriate ethnic market. I never escape the market without more unplanned purchases than what was on the list. Back in the kitchen, I cook to my heart’s content and Google what exactly to do with the splurge purchases (often with no labels in English). Terry clearly shares this approach – right down to making your own spice mixes. Touching on dishes from all 6 continents with a significant population (i.e. humans >> penguins), you have a dish for every occasion! My first two dishes, White Bean Farro Soup and West African Mafe were hits. I have made many more since, and I have yet to be disappointed! An added bonus is the humour throughout – what other cookbook do you have that references both Boy Meets World and Brave New World with puns?

(Note: there are some recipes that are clearly updated versions of those found in Veganomicon and Viva Vegan! as well as the spanakopita recipe from Isa’s Vegan with a Vengeance. However, there is still plenty of new material for this to be an absolute must in your cookbook arsenal. The updates also add to the dish – making them even better than the original!)

White Bean Farro Soup

Italian Kamut and White Bean Soup

This is like Italian Wedding Soup. Or a warm hug on a winter night. Hearty, filling, and something that will remind you of log cabins and skiing in the winter. I made it with kamut instead of farro, because I forgot which one to get at the bulk store. Kamut adds a chewy texture and was fantastic – I am sure farro is just as delicious! It’s a simple soup, but beautiful in composition. Terry has posted her own review as well as the recipe here. (Slurp!)

West African Mafe

West African Mafe

It has been debated that I could live off of peanut butter. I am a sucker for savory peanut butter recipes, and when I saw this West African Mafe recipe I knew I had to make it. Peanut butter lovers take note – there are not one, but three peanut butter soup recipes – all from different cultures! It amazes me that with a slight tweak to spices and the vegetables you throw in you can be transported to Chile, Asia, or West Africa. Similar to the Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Stew (from Asia), this West African Mafe was superb. Full of protein due to the tofu and the peanut butter, the broth is rich and hearty with plenty of spice to go around. It is definitely a distinct dish from the Asian counterpart, with a more subtle heat ‘punch’ – it sneaks up on you and makes you crave more. The eggplant soaks up the broth flavour wonderfully, and the addition of greens give the stew some colour. Serve with a green salad and your grain of choice and this is a superstar meal that will fuel you for whatever adventures take your fancy!

The recipe is on page 160 of the cookbook, and can be viewed via Google Book Preview: Deluxe Tofu Vegetable Mafe.

Vegan Eats World delivers some amazing recipes with a healthy dose of humour and fun. It’s a pleasure to read and delicious to cook!


Queen Elizabeth Cake

Queen Elizabeth Cake I Recipe

*Note* This is not my picture. The cupcakes disappeared too quickly for me to get a good one. Photo courtesy of AllRecipes.com.

Ironically enough, I first experienced Queen Elizabeth Cake in a tiny coffee shop tucked away under the shadow of Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Canada. Ironic because the Quebecois are potentially the most antagonistic “subjects” of the Commonwealth towards the British, and don’t much care for the “English” in general. Yet it was in this cute cafe that my friend and I experienced Queen Elizabeth Cake.

The cake itself has an interesting history: the Queen Mum would make it herself for the sole purpose of bake sales with proceeds going to the Church of England. Apparently Queens can cook too! (More information can be found here). It is a date cake with a coconut frosting reminiscent of German Chocolate Cake frosting. It’s not too sweet, and an excellent pairing with an afternoon cup of tea. Both my friend and I loved sneaking away to this small cafe and having a cup of tea with a small slice of cake before perusing the local indie music store. Since then, the cafe is no longer, I am a vegan, and she is a celiac. So, for her birthday I took it upon myself to take these memories of afternoon tea and cake and make a cake just as good – if not better – than the Queen’s. Two weeks of research went into this project, with numerous chicken-scratch recipe drafts. Finally, I had it. The result? “Amazing! They sure didn’t last long!” So take a slice of history and make this vegan, gluten free version of the Queen Mum’s classic – but you don’t have to share it with the Church of England!

 

 

Queen Elizabeth (Cup)Cake

Cake:
1 cup boiling water
1 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped
2 tbsp. plain yogurt OR 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
+ 1 tsp. canola oil
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup silken tofu, pureed (puree then measure)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
¼ cup glutinous rice flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped

Directions:
1) In small bowl, pour boiling water over dates. Soak until water tepid
2) In small bowl mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nuts
3) In large bowl cream together tofu and sugar. Add vanilla, yoghurt, and half of the soaked dates. Mix.
4) Add flour mixture in batches, mixing to combine as you go
5) Fold in remaining dates
6) Spread batter into greased 9×13” pan, or lined muffin tins
7) Bake at 350oF for 30-40min. (20-30min. for cupcakes), or until pass the knife test
8) Cool

Icing:
1 cup flaked coconut
½ cup almond milk
⅓ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. water until smooth

Directions:
1) In medium saucepan mix milk, sugar, and vanilla
2) Add cornstarch slurry and cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens
3) Cook for 1 min while boiling. Remove from heat.
4) Stir in coconut
5) Allow to cool until warm before spreading onto cake

 

 

 

 


Thai Red Curry with Savoury Mango Salad

R: Thai Mango Salad. L: Thai Red Curry

This Thai feast was inspired by the 9lb. case of mangos that were on sale. After peeling, dicing, and freezing most of the case, I saved a couple to eat fresh. Mangos are lovely, but one person can only eat so many! Trying something different, I decided to make a light and refreshing mango salad to go along with a Thai curry. Exploring my Thai skills, I opted for a spicy Thai Red Curry – a departure from my favourite Thai Green Curry. The mango salad was as advertized – light, refreshing, and with a nice little kick at the end from the red chili pepper flakes that I sprinkled on. The bean sprouts and shredded mango gave the salad a nice soft/crunchy texture ratio, and the leftovers were delicious the next day! Most importantly, when served with this spicy curry it cooled the palate down with complementary flavours so that each dish was brought to new levels of greatness!

The Mango salad recipe can be found here: Thai Mango Salad. I made this salad twice, once with a ‘green’ mango and once with a mango that was extremely ripe. The green mango salad version was crispier and less sweet, but the ripe mango salad was just as delicious! As it was slightly sweeter, you could also use it as a different dessert offering that would please many guests at the end of your Thai feast.

The Thai Red Curry was also delicious. My only complaint is that my homemade red curry paste wasn’t very red. Next time I may omit the coconut milk, or add some more red chilis to get the promised colour. This would also up the spice level – something I never complain about! The curry itself comes together quite quickly, even with making your own curry paste. I served it with vermicelli, but it would also be great with some rice to soak up the sauce. Fresh curry pastes beat the store-bought every time, if only because they smell so delicious when you are making them! For this version of curry I added tofu, bell pepper, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and green beans. I love when you cook cherry tomatoes just enough so they are warm but the skins don’t split. Then when you eat them they explode in your mouth like tomato flavour bombs! Other vegetable add-ins that would be delicious is bok choy, kale, spinach, snap peas, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, or even some jackfruit. To make it more of a fall curry, you could use potatoes, squash (butternut or pumpkin – something firm and not too sweet), spinach, eggplant, and for a special surprise turnips for an interesting twist on the fall menu.

I used this recipe as an inspiration: Vegetarian Thai Red Curry. I combined other recipes I found for red curry paste as well as cooking techniques for Thai curry’s and came up with my own version below.

Thai Red Curry

Red Curry Paste:
3 shallots or 1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp. lemongrass, minced
3 Thai red chillies or 3t. Thai red chili sauce
3 cloves garlic
1” piece galangal, sliced
¼ tsp. white pepper
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, ground
3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 kaffir lime leaf
½ tsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. turmeric
½ can light coconut milk

Directions:
1) In food processor, puree all paste ingredients until forms into a paste.

Curry:
1 tsp. peanut oil
1 (350g) package firm tofu, cubed
1 small Japanese eggplant, cubed
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
½ can light coconut milk
10-15 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
½ cup Thai basil, sliced into ribbons

Additional vegetable ideas:
Mushrooms, green beans, bok choy, kale, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, jackfruit

Directions:
1) Preheat large fry pan on medium-high. Add peanut oil and pour in curry paste. Stir-fry until fragrant, ~1-2 min.
2) Add tofu and eggplant. Stir-fry until saturated with sauce.
3) Add lime leaves and coconut milk. Simmer ~5 min.
4) Add remaining vegetables. Simmer 5-7 min., until tomatoes soft but not burst.
5) Garnish with basil; serve over rice.


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