Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tofu in black bean sauce + bok choy

Farewell, Vegan MoFo 2010!  I loved my project and am delighted to have added so many interesting new foods to my culinary repertoire--or in a few cases, to that class of foods I have "tried in the past," though those didn't generally make it onto the blog.

Here's a pictorial recipe for a dish I love--black bean tofu--and also instructions on the proper way to stir fry bok choy, which I didn't actually know until this month and my research into preparation of Chinese dishes.

Stir fries move pretty fast, so you need everything assembled ahead of time in a mise en place.  To the left are the ingredients for the black bean tofu: black bean sauce, chopped hot green peppers, chopped green onions, garlic, and ginger, and a cooking sauce.  For about half a pound of tofu, the cooking sauce ingredients are:

1/3 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp dry sherry
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
pinch black pepper

For the tofu, you can use firm tofu, but I really do prefer fresh.  Because I didn't want it to fall apart in the dish when I tried to fry it, I microwaved the block of fresh tofu for four minutes in a bowl with a plate over it, then drained and gently pressed it for about 15 minutes.  The result was that the tofu lost a lot of its water, became quite a bit firmer in texture, and ended up at about half of its original volume.  Here's what it looks like cut into pieces.  By the time you're done all the pressing and squeezing, you no longer have a perfect block, so the pieces are a little uneven:

But they fry up nicely in a little oil:

Once they're mostly golden, remove the tofu pieces from the pan while you fry the garlic, ginger, and peppers in what remains of the vegetable oil:

Add the tofu back in, mix the cooking sauce and black bean sauce together, and pour it over:

Heat, stirring gently, until the sauce thickens and becomes translucent, and serve at once.

This is bok choy.  Of the various oriental greens that look somewhat similar to this, it's the large one with very thick white stems and very dark green leaves.  Baby boks look much like this, only smaller, and are, as the name suggests, just a younger version.  The full grown bok choy is considered the sweetest-tasting green, and in fact it is very sweet and tender when cooked (it's even pretty nice raw).  The proper way to cook it is to separate the stems from the green part, and cook them separately.  Often recipes just call for the stems by themselves, and I could have made my dish like that, but chose to add the greens in at the end.  Here's the mise en place:

By this time, the whole kitchen was just a blur of speed, so I didn't get good pictures of the process, but for a simple stir fry, all you do is fry the stems over high heat with a little garlic and ginger, salt and sugar, in a mixture of cooking oil (peanut or canola) and sesame oil until the stems begin to brown.  Add the greens, stir fry a few seconds more, and serve right away.

And here's the finished meal, simple but tasty, and super quick:


  1. Looks great; the black bean sauce is so voluptuous. I'm relieved to know I stir-fry bok choy correctly.

  2. Oh that looks so delicious. I have to try some fresh tofu...I don't think I've ever had it, unless I've eaten it in a restaruant and just didn't know it. Thanks for the tip on bok choy..I will do that in future...that's usually what I do with chard, because I like the stems cooked more than the green part.

  3. That looks fantastic, thanks for sharing these recipes! Is that a Korean black bean sauce or is it a Chinese one?

  4. Hi, Katharine,
    It was a Chinese black bean sauce. One of the reasons I wanted to make this recipe was to compare them, having tried the Korean not long ago.

  5. One of my favorite dishes too!