Thursday, July 23, 2009

Braised Tofu (두부찜): Vegetarians can braise too!

While starting Daughters on solid foods, I made the conscious decision to feed them vegetarian. I was heavily influenced by the book Super Baby Food and it made me want to really focus on other sources of non-animal protein - legumes and soy. Due to Son's allergies however, I have been unable to do this for him, although it would have been my first choice. For Daughters however, it has made them tremendous eaters - from enjoying all sorts of non-animal based proteins like soy and legumes and great consumers of dark green vegetables and fruit. One of the key staples in their diet from the very early stages was tofu. As babies, they just enjoyed boiled tofu plain, or cold tofu plain mixed with vegetables and rice and a series of variations on a tofu theme. But as they grew older, they wanted something with more flavor and more complex, and so I turned to this dish that my mother used to make me when I was little. (I am also an extreme tofu lover.)

The basics of the dish: you take firm tofu, slice it, pan fry it (which changes the texture), and then braise it in a soy, sesame, water, garlic liquid. What you end up with is a rich flavored, wonderfully textured slice of tofu -and incidentally, Daughter #1 can eat more than 1/2 of a traditional pack of tofu prepared this way, all on her own! It is relatively fast, and since you are braising tofu and not beef or chicken, the braising part is actually finished in less than 15 minutes.

Braised Tofu (두부찜)

1 pack of firm tofu, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use canola or safflower)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (gochugahloo - less or more depending on your spice tolerance.)
1 teaspoon crushed toasted sesame seed

In a heavy fry pan, heat over medium heat and add oil. Carefully add tofu slices (it can splatter so watch out!) and do not overcrowd the pan. Carefully fry tofu until it is crisp and golden brown on one side, and then flip it over to cook the other side. About 2-3 minutes per side. When they are golden, remove them from the fry pan and put on a plate. Continue until all the tofu is cooked. (This photograph is not the BEST representation of my fried tofu, but I was dealing with a sick child when I took this, so I "overcooked" want golden brown not crunchy brown)

In a medium sized pot, add soy sauce, water, sesame oil, green onions, chopped garlic and chili powder. Give a quick mix. Carefully lay tofu slices into the pot.
Continue until you have added all the tofu. I try and place the tofu in a circular fashion. Do NOT worry that the braising liquid is not covering the tofu - during the cooking process it will eventually cover all of it. (Tofu releases some liquid and boiling causes the tofu to get covered.)

Place the pot over medium heat. Cover. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat.

Serve hot!


mina said...

looks lovely. i can't wait to make this myself. i'm also a big tofu lover. thanks for posting your great recipes. (:

eri-chan said...

Wow, this looks wonderful D:

I'm not a mom (I'm the daughter, actually, haha) but I'm definitely going to make this sometime :)

eri-chan said...

Actually, I made this for lunch today :) It was DELICIOUS! I didn't have any chili powder though... oh well, I didn't feel like I was missing out ;)

Anonymous said...

This was delicious!! My whole family loved it. Thanks for the great recipe, I'll definitely make it again.

Amy said...

I don't normally chime in on comment sections, but I am addicted to this dish. I change it a little (I am sort of copying my favorite dish at a restaurant in my home town)...

I add lots of mushrooms (about 50-50) and double the sauce. I also add oyster sauce, but that ruins the vegetarian aspect. At the end, I add a little cornstarch mixed with water to make the juice into a sauce, and I serve it with rice.

I've also made it into a soup,and added thick noodles.

Its interesting that you have the name in Korean... I am living in Korea and would love to try this dish at a restaurant, but have never seen anything like it!

I always try and make enough to have leftovers, but its impossible. We always eat it, all, forcing me sometimes to make it 2 days in a row because I didn't get enough!

James McGoran said...

Just made this! Was awesome. I made a little addition that you might want to try; I added about a tablespoon of summer berries fruit drink concentrate, you know, the stuff that you dilute for kids. It added a nice mellow fruitiness, like plum duck. Loving tofu!

BrusselsSprout_Katharine said...

Thanks for posting this, I made it for lunch today. It's a lovely change from my usual Korean tofu dish (from Maangchi). Coincidentally I also have the same baby food book :)

Would you mind updating to tell us the weight of the tofu you're using? I used a package of tofu from the supermarket here in Belgium, where the tofu packages are pretty small. Mine turned out, unsurprisingly, rather salty and the sauce totally submerged the tofu. I'm sure you're using more tofu, but how much?

If you don't get around to it, no problem, being a busy mother is a huge job!

Anonymous said...

Ahn nyoung Joanne!
I rarely leave a message on blogs because my comment would seem trite; however, I needed to express how copiously my sister and I enjoyed the braised tofu! It's one of our favorites and it tasted just like our mother's and we were so impressed! And to find that you hold a teacher's credential made me feel a kinship. I currently teach 7th grade; moreover, I also reside in San Mateo. I am happy to have found your blog! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.


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