I realise that although this is an Asian low carb blog that I don’t always feature the homestyle recipes that we cook day to day. Truth is that helper D does the bulk of Chinese cooking on the weekdays and I do more “exploratory” experimental stuff on the weekends. But when D was away for her 1 month break, I went back to cooking a lot more Chinese food.
Actually the trick to conquering Chinese home cooking from the low carb perspective is to substitute cauliflower rice for regular rice. Then the rest of the meat or vegetable dishes only need minor tweaks. For example, it is common for us to add corn flour or tapioca flour at the end of stir frying some meat or vegetable dish, but a pretty good substitute is actually xanthan gum, which is an excellent low carb thickener. Of course not every recipe can be made low carb. For example, I would never make sweet and sour pork – the amount of sugar and breading is awful and anyway it’s not a favourite in the family so we don’t really make this stuff. But the whole family adores tofu. Hubs usually tells me or helper D to buy 10 blocks of firm tofu when we go to the market for our weekly jaunt. In fact when D was away the uncle and auntie running the tofu stall were really disappointed in me because I only ordered 6 blocks instead of 10 blocks of tofu!
Tofu is a pretty high protein dish that can be used as a snack or a main. When hubs gets tired of eating omelettes he often asks D to just fry the tofu blocks for lunch. I don’t think I really like that but tofu to me is like a blank palette that takes on the flavours of other ingredients really well. I’m not impressed by places that offer tofu burgers and the like. I seriously think the best way to have tofu is really the Asian style of cooking – why would I want to eat a tofu burger when braised tofu brings out the perfect balance of flavours and textures versus something that is a poor substitute for a meat patty?
Anyway this is my favourite way of eating tofu – stir fried with meat and vegetables. It makes a great meal on its own and any number of tweaks can be made based on what leftover vegetables you are trying to clear in the fridge. For example this tofu dish came about because I desperately needed to use up a shriveled brinjal I had forgotten in the vegetable drawer and I also had a scrawny half a head of broccoli left. In the end hubs was the one who gave the recipe 2 thumbs up – I guess he’s the one who loves tofu the most!
Braised Tofu and Mushrooms
- 4 blocks of firm tofu
- 1/2 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
- 1 chinese brinjal (eggplant)
- 100g ground pork
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp chinese wine
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 cup peanut oil
- 1 cup hot water
- Soak the shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of hot water. Allow the mushrooms to soak for at least 10 minutes, then remove and slice and set aside.
- Cut the tofu into smaller pieces (about 1 -1.5 inch blocks). Also cut the brinjal into large chunks, about 1/2 inch thick.
- Heat up the oil in a wok over medium heat. Fry the tofu on all sides till browned and slightly crispy. Drain on paper towels. Also fry the brinjal pieces about 1-2 minutes. The oil should be hot so that the brinjal retains its purple colour.
- Pour away the peanut oil but retain 1-2 tbsp in the wok.
- Fry the garlic, about 1 minute, then add the ground pork and broccoli and sauté further for another 2-3 minutes till the pork is no longer pink.
- Add the brinjal and fried tofu pieces, the slices of shiitake mushrooms, 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and the oyster sauce, light soy sauce and Chinese wine and ground white pepper. Cover the wok and simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes.
- Lift the cover of the wok. Turn the heat up to high. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the surface of the braising liquid. Stir vigorously and simmer for another 2-3 minutes for the braising liquid to thicken up.
- Serve hot with a helping of cauliflower rice.