Although to say it’s “cooled off” is incorrect, as I still sweat like a fiend all the time, but that could just be a liver thing. It’s probably the heat. But there were clouds today, and a touch of breeze, so it felt like a day for mapo doufu, a thing I quite enjoy, and which I could have just ordered if I’d wandered down to Peaceful Restaurant on Broadway, but I was lazy, and this meal for three cost me less than ten dollars. And it would have fed four. But we were hungry.
And I wanted to make something with the beautiful green onions I bought.
And Tracy, who I haven’t seen in a million years (hyperbole) told me she was coming over tonight, so I thought it would be a good idea to make white-people chow mein (it’s a real thing – you get it in restaurants that specialize in “Chinese and Canadian food” and I think it’s in the section on the menu under the chicken fingers and the chili dogs – you also get it at the Kam Wah Wonton House in Langley which is where my parents order from and it’s awesome and the guy there knows that I like an Orange Crush with my order, every single time, even if it’s been a over a year since my last visit. I like it there. But this isn’t about chow mein.) and mapo doufu, which is just a fancy way to say “salty spicy tofu with meat” which is one of my favourite paradoxes, and a paradox is a juxtaposition of two things that at first don’t seem to make sense together, but upon closer examination, they so do. Vegetarians are confused about tofu, and they make it boring – I like it fried in bacon fat, or like we had it tonight – fried with salty things and meat. Not a grain of brown rice in sight. (Even though I actually really like brown rice. Not tempeh though. So you can’t call me a hippie.)
- 1 (14 to 17 oz.) package medium-firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
- 5 oz. ground pork, or just about a cup’s worth
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 1/2 tbsp. black bean sauce
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. sambal oelek (or chili-garlic sauce, or Tabasco, or sriracha)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 4 tsp. water
- 1 cup chopped scallions (green onions)
- 1 tsp. ground white (or black, I guess) pepper
In a large pan or a wok, heat the oil until it shimmers. Stir-fry the pork until it’s no longer pink, then add the garlic, bean sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, and hot sauce, then stir-fry for about a minute. Stir in stock, soy sauce, sugar, tofu, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for about five minutes, occasionally stirring, tasting and adjusting seasoning as needed.
Mix the cornstarch and the water together until the mixture is milky and has no chunks.
Stir cornstarch mixture into stir-fry and simmer, gently stirring for one minute. Stir in scallions and cook for another minute, before removing from heat. Serve sprinkled with white pepper. Unless you only have black pepper, then use that. And I’ve heard lots of people don’t like white pepper as much as they do black pepper, but Julia Child preferred white pepper, and as she was kind of a big deal and I actually do like the taste, we just go with that a lot of the time around here.
Serve with rice, or with tasty chow mein. I stuffed my chow mein full of vegetables so that there was some nutritional value to the meal. We do that some of the time around here.
The chow mein was just a bag of those fresh Chinese noodles you get in the salad section of the supermarket, mixed with garlic, carrots, celery, those gorgeous green onions, a bit of chicken stock, some soy sauce, and a touch of sesame oil, and then tossed with bean sprouts, which are not poisoned with listeria at the moment. It’s easy, and fast, and not so much authentic. But it sure is good. Serve both with a bottle or two of cheap but sumptuous white wine. It’s probably the best way ever to start off a work week once your vacation is over.
And it is over. Sigh. Tomorrow I will tell you all about the gazpacho with which I bade the time farewell.