Posts Tagged ‘tofu’

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Dreamy. (LAKSA TOFU)

January 4, 2016

ucc_laksa

Soup is on and I’m psyched. Lately I just want to take care of everyone and there is no better way than a big soup. It’s also handy to fight the chills, sharpen immunity and transform refrigerator odds and ends into a delicious, shareable meal.

As it’s finally winter in my hometown, I can’t help but dream of a Gilligan’s Island, where it rains coconuts and fish sauce douses everything. I am not sure where that crew landed, but Southeast Asia, and its exceptional array of cuisine, is where my mind is going. All the fresh ingredients that grace the plate and techniques that conjure flavor and texture, make complex dishes of rather straightforward ingredients. Deeper studies reveal an endless tome of recipes, unique to each person cooking. Paradise in more ways than one.

In hopes of bridging my desire for exotic beach holidays and wintry wonderland realities, I spent some time cooking laksa, a coconut-based soup that is served over noodles, the result of a fusion between Chinese and Malay cooking. Laksa is also hearty with protein, vegetables and spices, it will ground an appetite with satisfaction and warmth, while the mind gets in a boat and sails.

In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Southern Thailand, laksa is wildly popular and comes in many varieties, sporting tofu, fish, poultry or beef  intermingled with an endless parade of vegetables. I fill my quota with a couple of contrasty colors like orange, green, red, white, thanks to things like winter squash, green beans, tomatoes, parsnip, eggplant, or whatever seems logical. A simple homemade spice paste, with a healthy dose of curry and turmeric, sets the backdrop a golden yellow. A handful of bean sprouts adds crunch on top. Like many dishes from this part of the world, garnishes are key. Bright, aromatic lime, chilis, fresh herbs and extra fish sauce complete the dish, and the daydream.

LAKSA TOFU

Spice paste:
2 stalks lemongrass
1/2 cup roughly chopped shallots
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Soup:
1/4 cup oil
2 cups cubed eggplant (1 inch cubes)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)
3 cups water
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes)
1 cup sliced napa cabbage
1/2 pound tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts, plus extra for garnish
cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
red chili slices for garnish (optional
kosher salt
1 lime, cut into wedges

your favorite noodles, cooked

Remove the tough outside layer or two from the lemongrass stalk.Slice off the hard end (root end) and discard, along with the outer layers.

Make thin slices, starting at the root end, up the pale part of the stalk just until it starts to become deeper green. Reserve the green stalks.

Place chopped lemongrass in a small food processor (or blender) along with shallots, garlic, nuts, oil and salt. Puree the ingredients to form a paste-like consistency. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a medium sized pot. Fry the cubes of eggplant with a generous pinch of salt until golden brown.

Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

In the same pot, fry the spice-paste until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry and turmeric, and sauté for another minute or two before adding the coconut milk and water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release any cooked bits that are clinging.

Toss in the kaffir leaves, sugar, fish sauce, a teaspoon of salt and squash. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the leftover lemongrass stalks, using them to stir the soup occasionally. Simmer until squash is almost cooked, about 8 minutes.

Add in the cabbage, tofu, scallions and sprouts along with the cooked eggplant. Simmer all together for another 5 minutes and taste for seasoning.

Add more salt, sugar or fish sauce as needed. Remove kaffir lime leaves before serving. Place a serving of noodles in each bowl. Ladle soup on top and garnish with fresh mung bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, lime wedges and/or chili slices.

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A little lesson. (FARMERS MISO SOUP)

September 19, 2013

ucc_miso

I am a miso lover. I need to have miso soup at least once a week, usually as the precursor to some sushi even though that feels like the lazy way out. Miso paste in general has so much more potential than a few cubes of tofu and some lonely sails of seaweed. By learning a few different (easy!) ways to use it, miso can be a staple in your fridge forever and ever. You, as the owner of a high-quality tub of miso, can reap the many health benefits for just as long.

Since it’s a fermented food, it is important is to avoid boiling miso. High heat will harm the living enzymes that make this a genuine superfood as it will also dull the unique flavors. Use miso to ‘finish’ dishes that you have created rather than adding it when there is still cooking to be done.

Miso to-do list:

-Mix into softened butter to make ‘miso butter’, the best topping for seafood ever.

-Mix with minced garlic and chili paste as a condiment for grilled meat.

-Whisk into salad dressing or marinades.

-Just miso solo in a bit of simple broth.

-I’ve seen people use it in pesto as a substitute for parmesan but…

Below is a hearty soup recipe that uses a bunch of fantastic end-of-summer vegetables, but any mixture of veg would work. Once the soup is off of the stove, dunk a measuring cup into the broth, scooping out about one cup of hot liquid. Drop a few spoonfuls of miso into measuring cup and whisk/stir until it is dissolved. Pour the miso mixture back into the soup pot and adjust to taste. You can simply repeat this process until you have reached the desired amount of umami.

Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, spinach and/or noodles. This recipe can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like, the main thing is hot (not boiling) liquid*, dissolve miso, enjoy.

FARMERS MISO SOUP

(serves 4-6)

2 quarts stock or water

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed into small chunks

1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup chopped kale leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 pound tofu, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 splash of rice vinegar

a few red pepper flakes

1/4 cup wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water until softened

1/4 cup miso paste (any color)

1/2 carrot

1 inch ginger

chopped chives to garnish

  • Place the stock in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add onion, kohlrabi and celery. Simmer about 10 minutes. 
  • Add kale, garlic and tofu. Cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar and red pepper to season. Taste and adjust. Add wakame.
  • Take one cup of stock out of the pot and place in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk miso into the hot broth and pour it back into the soup. Taste and adjust.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and using a fine grater (preferably a microplane), grate some carrot and ginger into each soup and sprinkle with chives to garnish.
  • When reheating the soup, warm it but don’t boil. I’ll say it again.

*Make your own stock! I love stock making.

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/elaborations-veggie-dashi/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/balancing-it-out-alkalizing-broth-2/

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DRESSING UP. (SOY GARLIC OR PEANUT NOODLES)

March 31, 2012

As the weather warms it is natural to lighten up one’s cooking style. Cravings change and colors make a comeback as the Earth wakes from her dark slumber. One of the things that helps me bang out dinners that are quick (and acceptable for pre-bikini season eating) is having a few jars of salad dressing type things waiting for me in the fridge.

A good dressing is easy to whip up and can make proud almost any flavor profile. Perfect when tossed with leafy lettuces, these concoctions get even more use in my kitchen over grains, noodles, beans, grilled meats/veg and steamed tofu. From a spicy smooth peanut sauce to a chunky sundried tomato and fresh herb dressing, they are an indispensable part of the hustling spring/summer repertoire.

Pictured above is a throw-together dinner that was good! Glass noodles were tossed with fresh herbs and sliced jalapeños and topped with some leftover roasted fish and carrot-daikon pickles made using the basic brine in the last post. A drizzle of this powerfully savory Soy Garlic dressing ties all the stuff together. The recipe which is listed below is versatile, it works as a dressing, dipping sauce or marinade. It would also be super-duper for seasoning the broth of a gingered chicken soup or a kale soup or something similar which would be delicious right now as, even though spring keeps trying to rise, lady Earth just kinda wants to sleep in like a hungover teenager.

SOY GARLIC DRESSING

(makes about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons sugar

1-2 small red chiles, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup oil

drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

black pepper

• Place all ingredients a lidded jar or container, stir to dissolve the sugar.

• Replace lid and shake vigorously to combine.

• Check for seasoning. Adjust.

Here is the world’s quickest peanut sauce since I mentioned it… Good for everything.

PEANUT SAUCE

(makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 limes, juiced or more to taste

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 drizzle toasted sesame oil

cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce to taste, don’t be shy

  • Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl. 
  • Whisk until thoroughly combined and season to taste. 
  • Thin with water if needed.     
I love it when a meal comes together.
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Dear WOORIJIP, (KIMCHI PANCAKES)

April 9, 2010

Woorijip • 12 West 32nd Street, NYC • 212-244-1115

Though this sign says it all, I will continue with the post anyhow… You are the gem of 32nd Street (a.k.a Korea Way). Sure the block is jammed with restaurants but your cheerful, efficient food is absolutely perfect when one has limited time, (limited funds) and needs to get back to their regular stomping grounds in a hurry. It is also very accessible to people unfamiliar with K-way and the restaurants there, as it is very approachable and the casual DIY spirit makes it kind of fun.

In my latest midtown trek, you managed to get another gold star in my non-existent book of great restaurants. The first star was for the best to-go lunchboxes around, the second was for being open until 3am. The newest star is for the lunch buffet I can’t believe it took me this long to discover. For $6.50 per pound one can load up on all sorts of salads, pickles (sort of like getting the traditional banchan with your meal), and put together a plate from two long steam tables full of stews, noodles, rice dishes, seafood, veggies, and little side treats like kimchi pancakes, pork rolled in cabbage, rice cakes two ways and lots more!

I was beside myself with joy, sampling all of my Korean faves like chap chae noodles and ddukboki, as well as some new stuff I had never tried before in all of my Korean food adventures. More stars were generously bestowed upon ground tofu stew with kimchi, fried pork belly and kimbap.

I was so inspired by lunch that later on at work I made some kimchi pancakes. They were easy and delicious. Masitsseoyo! And so this post is not only an idolizing, love letter review, but also a recipe post.

A trip to Midtown is nothing without you.

Loyally yours,

Ori

EASY KIMCHI PANCAKES

1 cup of your favorite kimchi, chopped

3/4 cup juice from kimchi or water*

1 tablespoon soy sauce (plus extra for dipping)

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons oil (plus extra for cooking)

  • Mix kimchi, kimchi liquid or water*, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, eggs, flour and 2 tablespoons of oil together in a bowl. Should be a thick-ish pancake batter consistency. Add a bit of water if necessary.
  • Lightly coat the skillet with additional oil and heat over medium flame.
  • Drop desired amount of batter into hot pan and smooth it out to form pancake shape.
  • Cook until lightly brown, 2-3 minutes and flip. Cook on second side until brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  • Continue until batter is finished. Yields 8 (5-inch) pancakes. Serve with a little bowl of soy sauce for dipping.
  • * if using water instead of kimchi juice, add a pinch of salt to the batter.

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Dear Bahn Mi Saigon Bakery,

September 9, 2009

bahnmi_bakery

138 Mott St., NYC

You have made me forget all about the tiny deli on Grand Street that had THE best Vietnamese sandwiches in the five boroughs. And this is a really good thing because I was just about to break a nervous sweat trolling up and down the street looking for that little place. Now that bahn mi joints are practically more common than pizzerias, it is imperative to not take an outstanding bahn mi for granted. And I almost did. Funny the cross streets never stuck in my head after five years, but I had never NOT found it until this day and alas, I think it is gone. We all know this town can be cruel like that.

As I was walking south in despair, fearing that the true and authentic bahn mi had been replaced by a flashy new generation of $13 and too much bread, I saw your sign. It looked and felt right. I bee-lined, barged in, swept past the jewelry counter, and without a second thought, ordered the number One. And well, after a bite or two, I was reminded; the difference between a good bahn mi and an exceptional one is both subtle and clear as day.

The bread. Not just any bread will fit the bill. The perfect bahn mi baguette has to have a certain degree of yielding softness, not like the straight up French kind that makes your teeth work hard and scrapes the roof of your mouth a little, while not a cheap roll that will fall apart either. Since it is usually a take-out item, you may be standing in front of a jewelry store/bakery eating on the street and this thing needs to be compact and sturdy but still of fresh baked quality. My sandwich was lovingly warm, which is best, but for full disclosure I only devoured one half straight away, elbowing through Chinatown, and ate the other refrigerator-cold later. Still super.

The carrot/daikon pickle mix. That punk smell of daikon is mandatory for an authentic bahn mi experience with plenty of crisp vinegar to play with the sweetness that tinges the filling which, on the Number One, is exceptional pork. The caramelized pork, in addition to great texture, adds the fat flavor needed to stand up to the other ingredients which pile on fresh, spicy, salty, pungent and bitter all at once.

There should be a good balance between all of these, not an over abundance of one or the other. It does not sound difficult, but after eating (and making) endless bahn mi I know that, like pizza, even mediocre is still good. All of the ingredients will most likely taste great together: bread, meat, pickle, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, mayo (and the sneaky slice of cold cut), but to hit on all of the points just right and to make that ultimately perfect combo is something very special and rare.

I see that I have stumbled upon a deservedly iconic place. The vegetarian summer rolls I took for later also sort of blew my mind. Not expecting much from the pale presence of cellophane noodles wrapped in rice paper with tofu, they showed off with the huge flavors of a great marinade, tons of fresh herbs and two killer dipping sauces, one salty, sweet and gingery, the other a red-hot chili sauce. Fantastic. And on the money. Your cross streets will never leave my heart.

Your fast friend,

Ori

bahnmi_bag

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Dear Dokebi,

May 12, 2009

 

dokebi

199 Grand St • Williamsburg, Brooklyn (front door/restaurant + back door/bar)

One can say I’m on the rebound after leaving my last steady Korean restaurant back in Queens. Now that I am a Brooklyn resident, all is well! Yet I search for a meal to fill the void where Tofu and Noodles once was, a cozy neighborhood place I can turn to when the need to eat Korean food arises, which is often. I am always saying that if I feel a little ‘off’ or sort of run down spicy, effervescing Korean food without fail cures what ails. And anyway I crave it voraciously every couple of weeks. That is why I keep coming back, that is why I can’t stay away.

I feel lucky just having you close by! You too have excellent banchan, some items very reminiscent of the ex- and some brand new ones to enjoy. Those little blocks of egg you serve, more like a custard than the usual omelette-like manifestation, are so light and silky they almost disappear upon the palate. And what was in that spinach? Garlic and miso? Also delicious. Yes, and thank you for your fabulous kimchi, fish cake and sprouts, too. They help me long for my former go-to place a little less with every bite.

Since your menu is much bigger, it is difficult to know you intimately (as of yet), but I plan on getting to know you better. It seems that one of your specialties is Korean BBQ, which I have not tried, but I do spy on others boisterously digging in on any given visit. So far, I concentrate on the stews and I am a big fan of the whole grain rice you offer alongside. The tiny cubes of sweet potato hidden in there are a nice textural change to all that bitey rice. I am also really into the bibimbap. I don’t mind paying the extra $2 for the stone bowl, though I don’t see how it could be eaten from any other vessel. But I know that I have had to accept the higher price point of the neighborhood in general and especially in my frequent Korean food fests. I do appreciate the saving grace… with $8 lunch specials I make my way through the menu without feeling too jaded.

Dear sweet Dokebi, you are a great bar + grill with a great happy hour and alot of heartfelt food to give. After a 5-year relationship with the last place, please forgive me, it is a little hard to get over the super-low prices, the strictly authentic, hearty fare, the unassuming atmosphere I found there… But our relationship is new and exiting and I trust that it will grow.
Yours truly,
Ori

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Dear Tofu and Noodles,

February 4, 2009

tofu+noodles

40-06 Queens Blvd • Sunnyside, Queens

I know that’s not your real name, but can I call you that? Book Chang Dong sounds so formal. To me you are ‘Tofu and Noodles’, my special friend and neighbor, and that is how I have come to love you. There, I’ve said it finally. I love you! And now I am going to take my sweet time telling you all of the reasons why.

You have the best banchan in the whole city and you hand it over quickly and generously. I usually show up ravenous. As soon as the order is placed (which I sometimes do before even taking my jacket off), the banchan arrives without a moment’s delay. Little round bowls are heaped with hot, sweet, salty, briny bites of seaweed salad, fish cake, marinated cucumbers or bean sprouts, potato salad, shredded daikon, those little crunchy fish with the heads on and/or, of course, the housemade kimchi, which is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. All of these things are ingeniously designed to make you want more food as you eat them and they are always fresh and super-delicious. I usually clear my little plates systematically, leaving the chilled spicy garlic soup banchan for last. That one gets eaten when the main course is served in a feeble attempt buy some valuable cooling time, since most dishes arrive on sizzling platters or in hot stone bowls. I have suffered many burned tongues and would suffer many more.

You take good care of me! I don’t think I’ve had a single cold or flu since making your acquaintance! If ever I feel a little vulnerable to catching something, I march immediately to your door to have a meal that arms me to fight it off. I think Korean cuisine in general has these special powers but you are like a secret weapon. It is the perfect combination of intense spice which is very cleansing, the fermented items (like kimchi) which help balance out the system and fresh veggies, sprouts and seaweed that are packed with nutrients. It seems to kick start the immune system and knocks out any trace of a bug. Every dish comes with soft, shiny rice which is soothing to the insides and the hearty warmth of the meal certainly helps to restore a person back to optimum health.

And while I am here counting the ways, I have to praise your soon dubu chigae*, a dish that you make so well, I crave it in my sleep. I will not eat it in Flushing and have no use for it in K-town. It is the specialty which takes up one-half of your menu with its varieties (most of which I have sampled) and it always impresses Korean friends I have brought in who grew up eating the stuff. It also turns people who have never even thought of eating bubbling, boiling soft tofu stew into chigae-junkies. It is mandatory to eat it slowly. It makes a person sweat and sniffle with joy. I have noticed that as it cools, its flavor gets better and better and by the end of the bowl I am completely stuffed and completely happy, which is not only good for the body but also the soul.

I just thought you should know how wonderful you are.
Sincerely,
Ori

tofu+dubu

*Soon dubu chigae = Soft tofu stew.

tofu+banchan

Banchan are like snowflakes, no two are alike.