Ma Po Tofu

 

Last night, I learned two things:

1) I actually liked a dish with tofu!  So did my daughter and boyfriend!

2) It is extremely difficult, actually, damn near impossible to mince pork belly with my meat grinder.

That said, this turned out to be an amazing dish!  I had seen it many times on restaurant menus, but had always forgone ordering it due to my aversion to tofu.  You see, tofu to me, is akin to plastic nothingness.  I never got on the band wagon, and now I realize, that to truly enjoy this Asian/vegetarian staple, you have to cook it with something, so it can marinate and soak up all the flavours of whatever you are making.

I had recently seen a pretty good blog post from a fellow blogger, called Mrs. Chen: Old crone, pockmarked-face, tofu legend.  The description of the legend of this dish intrigued me, and his photos made me keen to try it.  So I did!  And I am soooo happy I did.  I absolutely loved it!  The sauce was just incredibly flavourful, chock full of garlic, spring onion, Sichuan pepper and chilies!

I did have a little bit of a problem though, we do have a couple of Asian markets here, so I made one variation to the sauce from the original recipe, I could find hot bean paste.  So, I added garlic black bean paste, and a tsp of this red chili paste/oil/madness to it.  I am assuming that this made up for the lack of it, and also gave it an extra garlicky umph!

So, thank you Andy, for pushing me to make this.  We will definitely make it again, and it has motivated me to try more dishes that include tofu!

You can find the original recipe here.

From my (via Andy’s) kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Pad Ped Nua: Stir-Fried Curried Beef with Long Beans

A couple of days ago, going through my reader on WordPress, I came across The Appletizer’s blog post about Thailand’s floating markets.  That reminded me of one of my cook books gathering dust on my shelf, because the picture on the cover is what I am assuming is something to do with the floating markets.

That made me crave thai food, but I didn’t want to do my staple, Pad Thai, I wanted to venture into something different, but easy.  I have a huge job tomorrow night, which takes up a lot of my time.  But a girl still has to eat right?

I decided on this, the stir fried curried beef with long beans.  My decision was wholly based on the fact that I have always wanted to try long beans.  I am not sure what I was thinking, if they were going to taste totally different than regular beans or what, but still, I had this mild curiosity to work with them.  They just look so cool.

I truly love this series of cookbooks, now a days cookbooks all mostly have amazing pictures, but back in the day, well it was sort of a novelty.  I started collecting as much as I could, but only have 7.  When I moved to Spain, I gave away (stupidly) about 4 of them.  Oh well.  I don’t know if the recipes are super authentic, but they seem to be so.  Most of the author’s are native to the country the book is about.

The other thing that really interested me was making my own red curry paste.  It actually turned out to be more of a green paste, due to the fact that I couldn’t find any red jalapeño chilies……but the taste was divine all the same!  And in my local Asian market, I found what they labeled as “Thai Cilantro”

It was really fragrant, and I think it might be what we call Culantro in the States.  But I might be wrong.  In the end, I really loved this dish.  The ingredients in the paste were fantastic, the only thing, is that I couldn’t find fresh Galangal, so I used dry.  I didn’t soak it enough, so I did find some bits of it in the finished curry.  I suggest if you can’t get fresh, to either boil the dried galangal, or to soak it overnight.  If anyone else has any other suggestions on how to handle dried galangal, I would love to hear them!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from “Thailand, The Beautiful Cookbook”

For the Curry:

Serves 4

2 tbsp oil

1 garlic clove, minced

250 g lean ground beef

2 cups chopped long beans, in 1 inch pieces

3 tbsp fish sauce

4 tbsp ketjap manis

1 tsp red curry paste

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup sliced green pepper

1/4 cup sliced red pepper

5-8 thai green chili peppers, sliced (optional)

For the red curry paste:

1/2 cup chopped onions

8 garlic cloves

10 dried red jalapeño chilies

4 thin slices fresh galangal

2 tbsp chopped lemongrass

1 tbsp chopped cilantro/coriander root stems

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp shrimp paste

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp oil

Heat a large skillet and add the oil and garlic.  Add the ground beef and sauté on medium-high heat until done.

Add the beans and all the other ingredients, including chilies if desired, and cook for about 2 more minutes or until beans are tender.

To make the curry paste:

Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a blender and process until smooth.

Heat a small skillet on medium-high heat and add the oil.  Slowly fry the curry paste for 5 minutes until it is fragrant.  Remove and store in a jar for future use.  (Makes 2 1/2 cups)

Serve with some steamed Jasmine rice.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

I miss chinese take out.  I know, I know, it really isn’t authentic, and it has been americanized.  But boy, you should try the “spanish” version of chinese food.  Blech.  Yuck.  Naaaasty.  So, I have to make it at home.  And it is so easy, but as I mentioned in my previous post, I love it when you can get it prepared for you.  As a single mom and chef, I usually do the cooking.  So it’s nice to get some good take out.  Anyhow, back to the food.

Oddly enough, my daughter has always LOVED broccoli.  So, I try to incorporate it into most of her meals.  Last night, I had a hankering for Chinese food, so I looked in my pantry, and yes, I had all the condiments I needed.  You can use other sauces, but I love the combination of japanese and chinese spices and sauces.  The key to the beef is marinating, at least 30 minutes, but if you can for longer, go ahead!  I was happy to also be able to use these gorgeous japanese ceramic bowls that my friend Miki gave me a couple of years ago for my birthday.  I hardly ever use them because they are so beautiful, and I don’t think I will be traveling to Japan anytime soon.  But last night, I felt like treating myself!

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Serves 4

3 thin steaks, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup sesame oil

1/4 cup mirin

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp chinese 5 spice powder

1/8 cup corn starch

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 cup broccoli florets

1/2 cup bean sprouts

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (straw mushrooms are the best in this case, but I used regular since they are hard to find)

Black sesame seeds, for garnish and a yummy, healthy crunch!

Marinate your steaks with the garlic, sesame oil, mirin, soy, fish sauce, and 5 spice.  Let it rest at least 30 minutes.

In a wok, or a large frying pan over high heat, add a little bit more sesame oil and the red pepper flakes.  When the oil is hot, add your broccoli and stir fry for about 7 minutes, or until bright green.

In the mean time, place the steak, without the sauce (but reserve it) in the cornstarch and mix well.  Add the steak and mushrooms to the wok with the broccoli and brown, about 4 minutes.  When it is browned, add the reserved sauce and about a cup of water.  Let boil over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, and then add the bean sprouts and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  The sauce should have reduced and thickened slightly.

Serve over noodles or steamed jasmine rice.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla