I have one confession to make. Being an Indian, I had always preferred paneer (Indian cottage cheese), rather than experimenting with tofu in my cooking. When I came to Hong Kong around 1.5 years back, I was so surprised to see the local markets full of so many kinds of tofu, but at that time I was quite reluctant to buy something which I never tasted in my lifetime. But one day, my four-year-old son suggested me to buy tofu, and said that he had it in school and really loved the taste. And that was how dau fu (tofu) was introduced in my home. Although taste-wise and texture-wise it is so different than paneer, I appreciate this unique ingredient and now I love to cook dau fumore frequently. Whenever we go to a Chinese restaurant (and we love to), I always order one tofu dish just to get an idea of the ways it is professionally cooked. Now, as the days are passing by, I feel that I am actually getting addicted to it! What I really liked about tofu is its silky smooth texture and of course, the nutritional value. Plus, it is cheap: I can have two blocks of fresh bean curd by paying just HKD 7. Now how cool is that!
Fresh bean curd is called dau fu by the Chinese and tofu by the rest. Initially, I was quite intrigued to see how tofu is appreciated here locally. Whenever I visited the local wet market, I saw that every third person is carrying two ingredients for sure: fresh bean curd and spring onion leaves! Here, tofu is sold compressed into square cakes, around 3 inches in length and breadth and height, respectively. Made from soybean milk, fresh bean curd or tofu is a boon for the Vegans and the lactose-intolerant.
Hong Kong boasts of a number of dau fu (tofu) dishes. Bean curd, although tasteless in itself, has an ability to absorb flavours of the sauce or the ingredients it is cooked with. Steaming is one of the most common ways to eat dau fu the Chinese way. Sometimes, it is cooked with ground meat (pork or beaf) and sometimes it is cooked with vegetables such as water spinach, string beans, etc. Hong Kong is a place where seafood is abundant, so shrimps (fresh or dried) are often added to tofu for an enhanced taste. This recipe uses the smallest, white dried shrimps, which I picked up from a dried fish stall at Cheung Chau. The sauce was so tasty that I used the extra sauce to cook fried rice with Chinese brown mushrooms and it was indeed very good as well!
Steamed Tofu in Dried Shrimp Sauce
[Traditionally, a medium-sized block of whole tofu is used for this recipe. However, you can cut the tofu into big pieces after steaming it, which makes the serving easier.]
- Fresh tofu: 2 cakes
- Dried shrimps (small): ¼ cup
- Oyster sauce: 1 tbsp
- Cornstarch: 1 tbsp
- Dark soy sauce: 1.5 tsp
- Sugar: 1 tsp
- Vegetable stock (without salt): ½ cup
- Spring onion greens: ¼ cup (plus extra for garnishing)
- Peanut oil: 2 tsp
Steam the tofu for 10 min. Combine oyster sauce, cornstarch, dark soy sauce, sugar and vegetable stock in a bowl.
Heat a wok over high heat and add the peanut oil. When it smokes, add the dried shrimps and stir-fry for 2 min. Add the spring onion greens and stir-fry for 1 min.
Add the sauce mixture and stir continuously over medium flame, until the sauce turns thicker and glossy.
Pour this sauce over the whole bean curds and garnish with chopped spring onion greens.