Homestyle Tofu with Greens

This recipe reminds us of some of our travels in China.  The dish is a classic in Sichuan cuisine, and the hotness can be varied by the amount of chili bean paste added.  The recipe is adapted from The Land of Plenty by Fuschia Dunlop.  The recipe is best cooked in a steel wok – this is a relatively cheap pan for $20-30 (no need for a pricey non-stick version).  You will need a jar of chili bean paste, which can be purchased at one of the oriental food stores in the twin cities, like United Noodles or Shuang Hur Oriental Market – we buy one called “broad bean chili paste” (we also check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain MSG – monosidum glutamate).

Serves 4 with 2 or 3 other dishes.

1 block of firm tofu (1 pound)
1-2 TBS chili bean paste
3 cloves garlic, chopped and and equal amount of minced fresh ginger
2 cups collard leaves, center ribs removed, cut into 1″ x 2″ pieces
3 baby leeks or scallions, white and green parts included, sliced in half long-ways, and then sliced diagonally into “horse ears”
1 1/3 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp honey or sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 tsp cold water

1. Slice the block of tofu into 3/8″ thick slices, then cut these slices into pieces about 3/4″ x 1 1/2″.  Heat about 1 TBS oil on medium heat in a non-stick frypan, then fry the pieces of tofu until golden on each side.  Drain on a paper towel on a plate and set aside.  You may need to fry the tofu in several batches.

2. In a wok or heavy frypan, heat 2 TBS oil over moderate heat.  Add the chili bean paste, garlic, and ginger and fry until they are all cooked and fragrant.  Add the collards, and cook, stirring frequently for about 1 minute.  Add the the stock or water and tofu and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down slightly, add honey (or sugar) and soysauce, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Add the leeks or onions, cover and let cook for another 2-3 minutes until the leeks become slighlty tender and the liquid is reduced.  If the liquid is gone, add another 1/4-1/3 cup of liquid.  Stir a few times, reduce heat, and then scatter the cornstarch mixture in the center of the pan, stir until the sauce thickens and turn out onto a serving plate.  Serve with warm rice.

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