Author Jen Lin-Liu was challenged to make this dish as a kind of cooking-skills test when she visited a Shanghai restaurant called Yin. (She passed with flying colors.)
It gets much of its flavor from broadbean paste, a spicy, reddish-brown fermented condiment that is sold in cellophane pouches at Asian markets.
Serve with steamed rice.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 12 to 15 ounces firm tofu (1 package), drained
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup broadbean paste (see headnote)
- 1/4 cup Chinese chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 tablespoon chopped scallion (white and light-green parts)
- 2 thin, quarter-size slices ginger root, minced
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
Cut the tofu block in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the flour in a shallow bowl.
Lightly coat each piece of tofu with the flour and arrange on a large plate in a single layer.
In a separate small bowl, combine the broadbean paste, chili sauce and sugar. Place the bowl next to the stove.
Line a baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels.
Heat 3/4 cup of the oil in a wok over high heat. When the oil is quite hot, add the floured tofu slices one by one, arranging them so their undersides are covered with oil. (You may have to fry them in 2 or 3 batches.) Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until lightly browned, then turn the pieces over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to brown the second side; the slices should have a fairly crisp coating. Transfer to the lined baking sheet as you work.
Carefully discard the hot oil (pour into a small heatproof container), then add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the wok and heat over high heat for 1 minute. Add the scallion and ginger, stirring for 1 minute, then add the broadbean paste mixture; stir for 1 minute. Add the crisped tofu, rice wine and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat; serve immediately.
Adapted from Lin-Liu's "Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China" (Harcourt, 2008).
Tested by Jen Lin-Liu.
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