We Are Taiwanese If You Please, We Are Taiwanese If You Don’t Please
Editors Note: Okay, so I can be pretty judgmental. For example, when women either (a) don’t have their nails painted, (b) have chipped nail polish or (c) only paint their toe nails in the summer, I immediately think less of them. Now of course, some of my best friends are negligent polishers, but that doesn’t mean I forgive them for being an absentee nail painter. See my point? I’m ridiculous.
When I first met Maidelitala all I knew was that she was a vegetarian and didn’t eat cheese (but, the cheese is no fault of her own – she’s a self-IDed “lactard.”) With the no meat, no cheese thing I thought I would have nothing to talk to her about. But, as I very soon learned, she loves to cook and makes really amazing veggie, cheese-less food. So as a part of my own learning process – learning to accept non-carnivores—here is Maidelitala. Oh, and she’s also a very exciting dancer. But that’s another story.
Since I was a wee tyke, one of my very favorite things to eat in the world has been a perfectly cooked plate of fresh broccoli (not raw, not overcooked.) Thus you must imagine my abject horror at Bush the Senior‘s shameful show of disdain for the cute little green trees and my chortles of delight when the Broccoli Farmers of America dumped a wheel barrel of the herbaceous crop on the White House lawn back in the day. Ahhh those were the days, when wheel barrel rolling terrorist farmers could get close enough to the White House to play practical jokes on the mouthy geezer who called himself Commander-in-Chief of this outfit…
Anyway, one of my very, very favorite ways to cook this veg-edible is Taiwanese style with sliced, slow cooked bean curd (a variation on a recipe taught to me by a not so dear roommate – not that she was bad… she was just a really, really loud talker and kept all sorts of pig products in every orifice of the fridge, which was super offensive to my veggie sensibilities. Regardless.)
Even if bean curd is something you really would rather avoid eating (it wasn’t so long ago that the word bean curd made me think of regurgitated legumes,) I promise this is a delicious, simple dish and the broccoli alone is worth making. Believe me, I’ve been a veg-head since I was 10 – I know what I’m talking about.
Read on for this special veggie edition of ES
Very Simple, Very Spicy, Very Yummy Taiwanes-ish Broccoli and Bean Curd
Before I get started, I have one caveat: I like my East Asian food razzledazzle spicy, so feel free to cut back on the heat if my spicing seems overzealous
1. Put a few dots of olive or toasted sesame oil in a large skillet (or wok) and place on low heat.
2. Sliver-up some onions and fry the suckers until they take on a little translucency.
3. Throw in some chopped garlic and pickled or fresh ginger slices. Add a dot more oil, let it simmer on low, and add a teaspoon of water if things look a little dry in the pan.
4. While the garlic, onion and ginger are doing its thing, in a separate bowl – mix 3/4 cup soy sauce with two teaspoons of wasabi powder, grinding in a dash of red pepper flakes. Add a few teaspoons of Sriracha garlic chili sauce (this is hot, be careful if you’re taste buds aren’t properly honed.)
5. Add a shake (1/2 teaspoon at most) of Chinese rice vinegar to the pan (I like the kind that has bits of red pepper floating in it)
6. Pour in the sauce mixture and sprinkle in a pinch of dry roasted red seaweed flakes (this gives the sauce a little thickness and a nice punch of sea-saltiness)
7. Place in the pan 1/4 inch thick slices of extra firm silken tofu bean curd (that’s the kind I use, from the box, it slices easily, holds together well, and picks up the flavor of the sauce nicely.) Now you can let this cook for 3 minutes or 40 minutes, on low, depending on how much you’d like the tofu to pick up the flavor of the sauce. I like it either way. Remember to add a cup of water and a touch more soy sauce if you cook the tofu for a long time as to keep the sauce saucy and not let it dry up.
8. Throw two servings of fresh broccoli florets into the pan and turn that heat up on to high (Ex-roommate insisted that I cooked my broccoli on too low a flame and that is why it wouldn’t cook stir fry-perfect. So there ex-roommate – here’s your large flame.)
9. Cook whole mixture for five minutes or until the broccoli is a bright green color. Don’t overcook the broccoli! If it starts to look limp, it’s been cooked too long. Sprinkle with sea salt, to taste.
10. Serve on a bed of rice….or not.