Monday, December 17, 2018

Pure comfort food from North China

This is a dish from up near Beijing that has become a staple of Taiwan’s military family school of cooking, for it is cheap and delicious. 

Shàozĭ dòufŭ is the sort of thing I practically subsisted on when I was perennially broke that third year. 

I would usually have it as part of a kèfàn 客飯 meal, which is an inexpensive entree served with rice, tea, and soup. A real bargain!

Something like this is pure comfort food, especially when served over hot steamed rice. It’s a complete meal in itself and is the perfect thing to make whenever the weather is lousy, you’re not feeling well, or you just need a bit of TLC.

Bean curd with ground pork
Shàozĭ dòufŭ  紹子豆腐
Northern Chinese cuisine
Serves 4

1 square medium or medium-firm bean curd (around 14 ounces | 400 g)

Boiling water, as needed
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces | 60 g ground pork
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup mild rice wine (Taiwan Mijiu)
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
Good quality doufu a must
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
Half a yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
6 small or 2 large wood ears, either fresh or soaked until plump, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1½ tablespoons regular soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup | 250 ml boiling water
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup | 60 ml cool water
1 scallion, trimmed and chopped

1. Cut the bean curd into small squares (about ½ inch | 1 cm all around). Bring 4 cups | 1 liter water to a full boil in a medium saucepan and add the salt. Gently slide the bean curd into the water and bring the water to a boil again. Gently pour the bean curd into a colander set into the sink, as your aim here is to destroy these cubes as little as possible.

Short on looks, long on taste
2. While the bean curd is draining, put the pork in a medium work bowl and mix in the cornstarch and rice wine until they are both absorbed.

3. Over medium heat, add the oil to the wok and fry the Sichuan peppercorns, onions, garlic, and ginger until the onions turn slightly translucent. Toss in the wood ears and pork and fry until the pork is no longer pink.

4. Make a well in the center and pour in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir these around to cook them slightly, and then add the boiling water. Slide the bean curd on top of the pork and add the black pepper and cornstarch slurry. Reduce the heat to low, and from then on simply shake the wok to stir things around, as this will help keep breakage down to a bare minimum. When the bean curd is heated through and the sauce has thickened, shake in the scallions. Serves 4.