One from Column “A” – Braised Tofu with Pork

One from Column “A” – Braised Tofu with Pork

So, I used to go to this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place. It was partly because of the “other” menu, as they did serve some pretty non – standard fare… or at least they did when “the usual suspect” was dining with me. I had my first Shark Fin Soup there, my first 1000 year old egg, and my 1-1/2 hour Oyster Pancakes  I found out later that they really didn’t take that long, they ran out of oysters and made a special run to the international market to buy enough for the cakes… so it was partly because of the service…
But mainly, it was because of the chili sauce they brought to our table.
It was spicy without being painful. It was oily. It was electric. It was supremely flavorful… and it was porky…. yes… porky.

There would be nights that we would only order dumplings – and a bowl of that sauce with rice crackers.
It was addictive.

After six years trying to wrangle the recipe out of them, I just gave up. The Owner’s mother-in-law made the sauce every night and she wasn’t telling.

Turns out… we weren’t getting the standard restaurant chili sauce that everyone else got. We were getting Mapo Tofu sauce… because they liked us.

I don’t cook a lot of HEAT here at Turtle Creek. Just the mention of chili peppers sends Jane into a sweat-fest… and the complaining…. it’s just not worth it.
So this is a similar recipe, without the heat.
I’ve made my own black bean sauce, not because I make my own ketchup, mayo and mustard, but because I can control the salt, spice and MSG which tends to run rampant in bottled sauces… besides, mine tastes better, anyway.
If you are wanting spicy, Marc Matsumoto over at No Recipes has a great recipe for Sichuan Style Mapo Tofu – and you can get that recipe here.

Braised Tofu w/ Black Beans and Pork

Serves 2 to 4

For the Black Bean Sauce:
1 Tablespoon Oil
3 Tablespoons Fermented Black Beans (any International Market will have them)
2 Cloves Garlic – Chopped
1 Tablespoon Water
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock (or Vegetable / Mushroom Stock)
1/2 Teaspoon Corn Starch
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Sugar

Add the black beans and garlic to a small skillet with the oil. Saute over medium heat mashing the beans into the bottom of the pan as they cook. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the sauce thickens well. Remove from the heat and set aside.
We’ll only use 3 tablespoons of the sauce for the main recipe, so the remainder of the black bean sauce can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks – or –  stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

For the Main Recipe:
1 Block Firm Tofu
1 Medium Onion
1/2 Cup Sweet Red Pepper (Bell or Dulcetto)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
3/4 Cup Stock (again, Chicken or Vegetable)
1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Oil
1 Clove Garlic – Chopped
1/4 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
1 Teaspoon Fresh Ginger (about a 1″ section)
3 Tablespoons Black Bean Sauce

First things first – 

Yes, you can make this without pressing the tofu, but tofu is going to weep moisture into the dish and you don’t want your braised tofu all watery. Additionally, I like the dense texture you get from pressing. It’s silkier and has a nicer bite than using extra firm tofu.
To Press the tofu:
Open the package and drain
Wrap the tofu block in paper towels or cheese cloth and place between 2 dinner plates.
Weight the top plate with about a 1 pound weight (that’s the size of a can of whole tomatoes) and allow to press for a minimum of 1 hour…. the longer you press, the denser it gets.

To Make The Dish:

Cut the Tofu into 1″ cubes
Cut the onion and pepper into strips
Add the pork, ginger, and garlic to a medium saute pan with the oils – saute until brown
Add the onions, peppers, and chili flakes and saute until the onions sweat down a bit (about 3 minutes)
Add the bean sauce and stock and bring to a boil
Reduce to simmer and place in the tofu – making sure to work them down into the sauce
Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tofu is heated through. Turn the tofu over about 1/2 way through the simmer to make sure all sides have been down in the sauce

Serve it with some fresh steamed rice and finish the meal off with fresh melon topped with brown sugar and freshly grated ginger

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