I'm writing posts as I can, working from recipes we made just before we left. Let's jump right in and get to it!
After all these years, we've finally gotten to a point where while shopping at the market, I can set a package of tofu into the basket without much grumbling from Jeff! That's not to say he's jumping up and down in excitement, but he has become much more open to giving all sorts of different foods a pass. I needed that tofu to try out a lighter recipe for the Mao Pao Tofu dish we prepared for dinner a few days before we left for the trip.
Even though the original recipe didn't call for it, I took the extra time and step to wrap the tofu in several layers of paper towels and weigh it down with a couple heavy plates to draw out as much of the excess moisture as we reasonably could. Ten or fifteen minutes is usually enough, but if you have a good half hour, all the better! This firms the tofu cube and takes away some of that spongy texture Jeff doesn't care for - we've also found it helps the tofu brown a bit more easily in the pan.
When you drop the pressed tofu into the skillet (or wok, if you happen to be lucky enough to have one), leave it be for at least a couple minutes to get a crust started, then do the same when you stir them around, letting the other flat sides gain a golden tone for the best texture. Once that happens, a marinated mixture of ground pork, sherry and salty soy sauce was added and crumbled as it cooked along. What I did so the tofu wouldn't be smashed during this process was to push them all along the edge of the skillet, sliding the pork right into the bare center, rather than taking the cubes out of the pan.
For a fragrant punch to this dish, the pork was livened up with green onions, fresh ginger, chile paste and a plethora of minced fresh garlic. After a few seconds of contact with the heat, the zesty aroma of those ingredients hit my nose, letting me know it was time to add a bit more soy sauce, sherry and the broth called for, creating a saucy, moist glaze. Well, it'll be glaze-y once a touch of cornstarch is mixed in!
A mound of rice was the perfect fluffy bed to serve this over - use what you like, but we went with brown basmati, cooked using our favorite off-hands no-fuss method. This had a welcomed spice to it, yet it wasn't so dramatic that I had to grab a Kleenex to stop my sinuses from running - good, but Jeff would have liked more heat. He did clean his plate though, which means tofu got one more plus in his book! I did wish I had enough extra green onion to scatter on top - not only would it have been a hint of freshness, the pop of color would have been nice!
Mao Pao Tofu