After learning the secret of the bean curd appetizer sauce from one of the customers at the restaurant, I started putting together some ideas for my own version of the bean curd appetizer. First, I had to go and get the right type of a bean curd. It has to be the firm rubbery tofu with a dark brown color outside.
There is a bean curd shop in Chinatown (Manhattan), where they have one of the best quality tofu and also the best deal in the city. You have to go there in the morning otherwise the special/unusual bean curds are gone. They go quickly because of the quality and the price. In my case, by the time I arrived at this shop, unfortunately, the bean curd I wanted was already sold out. I knew another shop close by where they have a similar kind of a bean curd. I went and got this one in stead (below photo). The price was $2.75 .
This is a regular version of this kind of a tofu but there also is a smoked version which is a bit more expensive (about a dollar more). I usually like the smoked version better but decided to try this one so I could test the recipe. The dish I had in Flushing was not using the smoked kind.
When developing my own version of this dish, I wanted to add some different textures from the original dish. I’ve been craving about adding some crunchiness. The bean sprout was my first option to achieve this. In Chinatown you can get some bean sprouts for 60 cents/1lb.
Asian cucumbers were another option but I thought it might get soggy. Also I didn’t want my dish to resemble the jelly-fish appetizer.
Another ingredient I though of to enhance the texture of this dish was the Preserved Chinese Radish (四川搾菜). I imaged this Preserved Chinese Radish (四川搾菜) to be mixed with sprouts and the salted bean curd. Seemed like a very nice combination. Then I remembered I had some left over Takana pickles (高菜漬).
Takana pickle is a Japanese pickles that is very similar to Chinese pickles called Suan cai (酸菜). Takana pickles, Preserved Chinese Radish, and Suan cai are sometimes used in similar dishes. It is wonderful when you mix one of them with pork, bamboo shoots, and top them over some hot noodles soups. Takana vegetable came to Japan from China during the Heian Period (794～1192) but the current Takana is a hybrid between this ancient breed and the new breed brought from China during the Meiji Period (1867～1912). I’ve decided to use Takana pickles in stead of the Preserved Chinese Radish (四川搾菜).
I went and got some cilantro as it was one of the main ingredients from the original dish (well, the original dish had only two ingredients) but in stead of using big chunks of cilantro, by stems, as it was used in the original dish, I decided take a different approach by mincing it.
I’ve also decided to add more aroma by adding some green onions. I love the combination of minced cilantro and finely chopped green onions. This combination works very well in many dishes but one of a good example of this is for me is when making the thousand year old eggs and tofu dish.
Still, I felt I needed to accentuate the flavor a bit more. Something was missing. Perhaps from the sauce. Pondered over whether I should add some garlic but decided not to because I felt it was a too much diversion from the original dish. In stead, I’ve decided to add some hot chili into the sauce to add a slight kick
Here is the recipe: Serves Four People.
**Click on the each link to see how they are prepared.
1 and 1/2 piece – Salted Tofu – thinly sliced.
1/2 lb – Bean Sprouts – boiled.
1 small piece – Takana (高菜）pickle (very similar to Suan cai 酸菜) – thinly sliced.
1 large stalk – Cilantro – minced(or 5 tablespoon of minced fresh cilantro).
1 medium size stalk – Green Onion – finely chopped (or 4 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh green onion).
2 tablespoon – Soy Sauce (I used the Japanese soy sauce I already had but I think it’s better if you can get the Chinese soy sauce).
2 teaspoon – Sesame Oil (again, the Chinese version might be better).
1 1/4 teaspoon – Sugar (or 3/4 teaspoon – Splenda).
1 medium piece – Chili
A dash of Salt.
Directions: 1 to 11.
1. Wash all the ingredients before starting the preparation.
2. For this package, Salted tofu comes in four. Take 1 and a 1/2 piece and slice them to thin pieces (please refer to the above ingredients link).
3. Mince, chop, and slice cilantro, green onion, and Takana pickles as shown on the ingredients links.
4. Bring the pot to boil with a dash of salt and add the sprouts to cook ( do not cook more than a minute. 30 seconds to under one minute is the ideal).
5. Strain the pot and place the sprouts under the running cold water then drain the water.
6. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
7. Sprinkle some salt to 6 and mix them all to blend the flavors.
8. Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, and Splenda (or sugar), in a separate bowl.
9. Crush the red hot chili pepper and add to 8.
10. Pour 9. into 7. and mix them well.
11. Plate them and garnish with cilantro to your liking.
So, was this a successful dish? Let’s examine it at part 3.