Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Steamed Tofu with Spicy Sauce: What is good for one may not be good for another

For my favorite kimchi addict, SB

In preparation for my girls' weekend, my minivan was pimped out (as pimped out as a minivan can be anyways).  I removed all the car seats, all the junky bits of crackers, and all the sticky messes and had the car detailed.  The outside was waxed and the inside was sparkly.  My ride was posh.

Inside the car were hot mommas on our way to Napa for a day of feasting, wine tasting (with no whining), and fun.  It was the weekend we had been planning for a few months, coordinating 8 different schedules to gather 8 people from four different states.  5 separate airline flights were taken in order to all meet.  It was, in essence, a reunion 10 years in the making.  At the center of all this planning was me, and I dubbed myself the "cruise director" (I was referred to as Julie McCoy, a Love Boat reference for anyone who is too young to know the show)  I took the happiness and enjoyment of the guests I was driving around seriously and to heart.  I felt  a heavy burden of responsibility to make sure that these wonderful people, who had traveled far were going to have a fantastic time.  FANTASTIC I say!!

On our way to Napa, we stopped off at La Boulange Bakery, a personal favorite of a couple of other girls and mine.  We walked in to grab a variety of baked breads and to enjoy a simple breakfast of croissants and hot coffee.  I sat and savored my breakfast only to look over at one of my guests, SB, who did not look like she was enjoying her breakfast.  She said, "I don't really like these croissants."  Her comment was met with cries of dismay from the others and comments of, "You don't mean that!!"  (How DARE she not like something so delicious?)

But she wasn't so into the croissant.  And that one misstep with breakfast essentially set her on a huge spiral of not enjoying food.  I watched her eat without enjoyment at Bottega and later at Morimoto.  Her discomfort with food became my discomfort.  At one point I turned to her and asked her, "What can I do?" and she could only shake her head and say, "I need kimchi."

Kimchi in Napa was going to be a hard find, although in retrospect Morimoto had kimchi (served with a pork chop) and I began stressing about how I was going to find something to settle SB's stomach.  Clearly her Korean food nature was unsettled and unhappy and only a quick fix of kimchi would be able to reset her system.  I kept thinking about how I would get some kimchi for her and how I would be able to provide the thing that she most needed.

I ended up sending a series of texts to two girls who were going to meet us the following morning.  I begged them to bring kimchi and rice so as to discharge my duties as cruise director properly.  The two kimchi delivery girls, CY and JEL brought the kimchi to the Ferry Building, and there we discovered kimchi fried rice and an opportunity for SB to eat her kimchi and rice in peace.  The color of her face went from wan to healthy, her mood went from down to hyper, and suddenly it was like the clouds in the sky separated to reveal the sun.  I felt immense relief knowing that my cruise was a success and that no one was going to be unhappy.

I wished very much while watching her suffer that I had had a portable kitchen with portable food to make a portable meal.  Someone should invent this.  If I had had a few simple ingredients, I'm sure that this dish would have helped settle her upset stomach and gotten her on the right foot for eating.  Next time I'll be sure to travel with kimchi and the ingredients for this dish.

It is simple to prepare with simple ingredients.  I love it for its lusciousness all the while keeping it very simple. Simplicity means it can be made often (in our house at least twice a week for my tofu loving girls) and it can be made without too much thought.

Steamed Tofu with Spicy Sauce
Serves 4

1 block firm tofu

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (I prefer low sodium for almost all of my cooking)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (Kadoya brand is my preference)
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
1-2 teaspoons of red chili powder (고추가루 gochu gahloo) - optional if you do not want spice
2 teaspoons sesame seed

In a small bowl mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, red chili powder and sesame seed. Set aside.

Slice tofu in half and then slice into ¾ inch slices. Carefully layer tofu in a saucepan, trying to keep all the tofu straight. Don’t crumple them or squish them together as you will ruin the shape. Pour ½ cup of water in the pan. Place pan over high heat and cook, until water boils, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully spoon tofu slices onto a place. Spoon a bit of sauce over each block of tofu. Serve immediately.

Printable recipe


Anonymous said...

PS. Mollie Stone's carries Kimchee - even out here in Marin! GT

Sandy said...

Wow, who knew kimchi had so much power!

Mommy Lim said...

i heart this post..and ur a great friend & cruise director...and i'm with SB..from now on, i'm carrying the bagged kimchee with me wherever i go!

thewonderingchef said...

Im simply in love with the pictures! The tofu sounds so delicious!

Jacki C. said...

I happened to have a block of tofu in the refrigerator so I decided to make this for dinner after I saw it on Tastespotting. Sensational! I also added a chopped clove of garlic to the mix. Delicious flavor combination--I will definitely make this again!

myfudo said...

Oh great...that's an awesome idea and the way it's topped by that chili sauce makes it look so enticing.

Pam said...

Tofu is something I can take or leave depending on how it is made. This recipe makes this sound unbeatable. Thanks.

Amy said...

Earlier husband suddenly texted and said he had time to come home for lunch. I had nothing prepared and knowing he was having a stressful day, I thought some comfort food was in order. I bookmarked this recipe long ago, but had never tried it. Since I had all of the ingredients, I quickly tossed it together. Sat it in front of him: "Wow. This looks good!" then after the first bite: "I could eat this every day!" He continued raving while wolfing down the entire thing in record time, finally proclaiming it a keeper and that it's "restaurant-quality good." Thanks for sharing your talent. He's Korean but I'm not, and even after 11 years of marriage I can't always judge a Korean recipe by looking at it. Yours are home runs in our house!


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