Thursday 25 April 2013

Hot & Sour Tofu

There aren't may British people I know that like tofu. Complaints that it doesn't taste of anything are then reinforced with a texture problem which in turn is ballasted with the hippy-dippy-health-food-barefoot-vegan-meat-replacement notion. 

Well, you're all wrong. 

Tofu has a delicate flavour, but that flavour's definitely there and besides what's the beef with flavour anyway when you usually put it with something nice and punchy? As for the texture, if you don't like the wobbly, delicate jelly-like feeling of soft tofu, there's nothing I can do about that except feel sad for you. Or suggest you chow down on deep fried tofu puffs - you can stuff them or braise them and both ways they are lovely. 

Once you get over the wibble fear, you should make this. The sauce that drenches the warm tofu is addictive and spicy, slightly sour, quite salty and a little sweet. A hint of Sichuan peppercorn makes the tongue tingle, while the crunch of preserved vegetable and spring onions is a nice contrast to the smooth and silken tofu. A dish of stir-fried greens and another of stir-fried chicken completed the meal nicely, though I found myself abandoning the latter dishes and smooshing the tofu and sauce into my rice alone. 

Hot & Sour Tofu

Serves 4 with other dishes

1 box of silken soft (not extra soft) tofu
1 tsp dark soy
1 tsp Chinkiang black vinegar 
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp light soy
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp chilli oil (2 of the oil, 1 with sediment)
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 spring onion
2 tsp Tianjin preserved vegetable, rinsed well 
1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground into powder
A small handful of coriander

Drain the tofu and place it carefully on a plate. Steam for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, roughly chop the coriander and slice the spring onions and leave to one side. Heat the cooking oil and fry the garlic on a low heat, taking care not to burn it. Drain the garlic and place in a bowl. Mix in the soy sauces with the vinegar, sugar, chilli oil and oyster sauce with a tsp of water. Mix well and pour carefully over the freshly steamed tofu. Garnish with the preserved vegetable, Sichuan peppercorn, spring onions and coriander and serve with rice while warm.


Helen said...

I LIKE TOFU. Took me a while though. I think it's just a familiarity problem.

This looks gorgeous. I could easily eat it on it's own with rice. The whole block, obviously. Love the pressy veg too. I hate myself for writing that.

Ian Fischer said...

I love tofu, but not a fan of silken. I generally prefer firm or extra firm or the open texture of deep fried tofu. This however does sound nice and the oyster sauce can be substituted with vegetarian stir fry sauce (available in lots of Chinese supermarkets)

Katie said...

As veggie I am into tofu (and converted my non-veggie previously tofu-fearing boyfriend), but like Ian I nearly always get the deep-fried or puffed stuff - I'm not generally a fan of silken. I've never considered steaming it. This looks lovely, I'll definitely give it a go.

Unknown said...

Well said

The Brussels Cook(er) said...

This looks extremely yummy - tofu is such a great "flavour enhancer/carrier"! Will definitely make this - especially as I adore sichuan pepper and black vinegar (which I often use instead of soy in stir-fries - so much more complex in flavour). I have to confess that I haven't used Tianjin pickles before but I'm sure my local Chinese supermarket stocks them.

Anonymous said...


Nice blog. I've been thinking about this dish and it looks really nice. I'm going to try and make it. However, I don't understand why you have the sauce on a block of Tofu. In China, this most certainly would be cut up into equal sized rectangles and small enough to be able to pick up with chop-sticks. That's how I had some Ma Po Tofu when I was in Chengdu last year. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I hope Lizzie does not mind me butting in but I personally enjoy the look of a whole block of tofu and the sensation of digging into something solid yet wibbly wobbly.

Tofu isn't always served cut into small pieces. It can be cubed, but it can also be sliced or left whole. It is, like so many things are, a matter of personal preference.

- Another Lizzie

Hollow Legs said...

Helen - I think so too. Not many things in British food culture with the same texture - pannacotta maybe? PRESSIE VEG.

Ian - Ah yes, good point - reckon hoi sin would work as a vegetarian substitute too.

Kate - do let me know what you think!

Unknown - thanks!

Brussels - Yep, they should stock them, it's a common ingredient. Make sure you rinse well otherwise very salty. Keeps in the cupboard for ages.

Anon - Thanks! I think this is a different beast to the likes of ma po tofu. The dressing is very intense, so you don't want the tofu swamped in it - just a little with each bite for some flavour. Ma Po Tofu and dishes that cut the tofu up are generally cooked in a sauce that has the flavourings but also stock to dilute the flavour a little.

gi_nav said...

I could defo be converted by this. First time I had tofu was a Leluu's and that was ace. Not sure if it was firm or soft though. I do love your recipes - I really never cooked Chinese food before I followed your posts, so thank you!

Anonymous said...

I bet it's even better with chicken!

Catherine said...

Where do you buy your tofu in the SE22/SE15 area?

Hollow Legs said...

Gina - ah, that's good to hear. I shall endeavor to post more Chinese recipes in that case.

Anon - Ooh yes. Leftover roast chicken, shredded and dressed with this would be great.

Catherine - Wing Tai supermarket, next to Morrisons sort of round the corner from Primark in Peckham.

Helena Lee said...

I'm with you - and will definitely be making this. The thing that the Chinese do well is mixing the textures - the super smooth with crunchy etc. and mixing the flavours, which is why they do tofu so well.

Kavey said...

I love tofu! As a child I think I came across more of the fried stuff, the puffy airy one used in stir fries...
But in the last 10 or so years, I've become very fond of the silken tofus, I love the gentle flavour and the smooth texture. And yes, hardly bland when you dress them with such wonderful flavours.

laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

I love tofu and it's texture is so unlike anything else it's great. I love the way it soaks u flavours and your sauce sounds sooo good!

Simplyfood said...

Looks very tasty and delicious mouthwatering clicks.

S said...

I absolutely adore tofu - I cannot abide it fried. I love your recipe - I want to get my baby interested in tofu, too, (and spices!). Love black vinegar, like you. This recipe is going into my Tiny Spoon arsenal. x