This is my first Friday challenge Post for 2012! If you want a recap on the idea behind this challenge please read here. I will be using techniques or ingredients unfamiliar to me and reviewing them in order to learn and get better at cooking! I chose tofu to begin with because I haven’t ever cooked it before and also I am unfamiliar cooking with Asian flavours so this was a great opportunity to learn. The extent of my chinese cooking skills extends to stirfries with a ready made sauce and straight to wok noodles…definitely room for improvement! I took the recipe from “Wagamama: Ways with noodles” by Hugo Arnold, which is available to buy online/ in book shops or in the restaurants.
I actually cooked this soup twice because the first time it went a little wrong, my tofu fell apart and also I under estimated the amount of time it would take to Julienne a whole carrot so everything burnt whilst I was carefully slicing away. Note to self, work on my knife skills!
The second time I drained my tofu really well and then patted it dry with kitchen paper so that it really firmed up. I also prepared all of my vegetables before beginning to make the soup. I think the learning points here were to prepare the tofu well before cooking, also to be gentle with it in the pan so it doesn’t crumble! It also helped to have really hot oil in the wok!
Being my first real time at trying to cook tofu I wasn’t sure what to expect but I am now a big fan and will definitely cook it more often. You can get all kinds of flavours such as chilli, basil or smoked. Plain tofu by itself doesn’t have a lot of flavour which is why I think it was perfect for this sort of dish which had salty soy, sharp mirin and lots of garlic! The flavour balance against the soft tofu was delicious.
The recipe called for the use of fish sauce so I went down to my local Chinese Supermarket and asked what could be used as a vegetarian alternative for the flavours (The man chuckled for a while and said “my daughter is also vegetarian but she eat fish sauce”. I think he thought I was being awkward!)- of course you will not match the flavour exactly but they gave me a sauce which is vegetarian and based on the flavours of oyster sauce. I don’t know how it compared to fish sauce but it was delicious!
This cook book has some lovely recipes in it and I would recommend buying it if you want to cook simple but delicious Asian meals. I think this recipe had a bit too many noodles (100g for two people) but as a main course I guess it would be really filling! I had it for dinner and then for lunch the next two days. All the ingredients were easily found in my local supermarket and there was nothing too exotic so it wasn’t expensive either- no excuses not to make more Asian food!.
What have I learnt about Tofu?
It is very delicate to handle but if you drain it and keep pressing it with kitchen towel then it does firm up well and it is easier to fry. Frying it gives it some texture however I have seen recipes where you just slice it and add it to the soup for a more silky texture!
I think it’s a good ingredient to balance out flavours and to add a bit more substance to a meal. It wouldn’t taste nice just by itself it definitely needs a kick!
I also learnt that creating a basic Asian soup is not as hard as it looks (I’m sure there is an art to it with more complex recipes), it’s all about balance of flavours! I was happy to see that the base of the soup was vegetable stock and then soya sauce, garlic, mirin and my veggie “fish sauce” was added to give it that oriental edge. I definitely feel more confident to experiment with broths and soups using different flavours of tofu too!
With week one of my tofu challenge complete my mind is filled with ideas for my own recipe! Next week I’m going to cook a tofu omelette with a chinese inspired sauce….sounds interesting… 🙂