Overcome The Fear – Home Style Tofu (家常豆腐)

by Yi on March 28, 2011 · 18 comments

Post image for Overcome The Fear – Home Style Tofu (家常豆腐)

Over the years I have been getting all kinds of different reactions and expressions when the word “tofu” is ever mentioned. Sometimes I’d hear positive remarks such as “healthy vegetarian”, “superfood”, and etc. More often I would get comments like “disgusting”, “bland”, and “mushy”. Yet the best one I’ve seen so far is to describe it as “firm but squishy little blocks of an edible substance that changes depending on how you eat it. Eeeww…”.

With the ongoing confusion and misunderstanding about tofu, a mission to demystify tofu, to help some of the readers overcome the fear of tofu, and to hopefully convenience some of you to like tofu. I am taking this opportunity to introduce tofu with some facts, images, and of course a delicious recipe as well.

First of all I would like to clear up the below misconceptions I normally get when talking about tofu:

1. Soy can cause breast cancer, so will tofu.
The studies have shown that some compounds in soy products contain hormones that can potentially cause breast cancer but nothing so far has shown a direct link to soy consumption to such disease. Eating tofu moderately will not increase your risk!

2. Tofu is bland and tasteless!
Technically tofu, since it’s made of soy milk, does have the taste of soy bean. However it is so subtle that it is almost negligible in certain types of tofu. The taste intensifies as the firmness increases. More about firmness below.

3. Tofu just tastes bad, period!
Might it be food preference or personal experience, a lot of factors can attribute to your like or dislike towards tofu. Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll be able to look at it differently.

So What Is Tofu?
In plain English, tofu is the product of curding soy milk and subsequently removing all the liquid. The process is similar to how cheese is made (think this way to remove some of your doubtsJ). Tofu is thought of Chinese origin although it’s also massively popular throughout other Eastern Asian countries.

It became well known in Western countries in the last 15 years or so and it’s often thought as healthy alternatives to other sources of protein. Ironically, in ancient China, tofu was often seen as cheap alternatives to meat. In order to make tofu as tasty, chefs over generations have mastered their tofu cooking skills and created wide range of creative dishes. That’s why if you ask me if I am eating tofu to lose weight, I’d think you are crazy.

Tofu comes with different varieties and textures. In general, there are four types of fresh tofu ranged in increasing order of firmness: soft or silken tofu, medium firm tofu, firm tofu, and dried tofu. Each type of tofu is designed for different dishes and cooking techniques. In addition, there are other soy products such as tofu skin, fried tofu, frozen tofu, fermented tofu…

Home style Tofu is a widely known classic tofu dish. The exact origin of this recipe is unknown but I consider it Sichuan cuisine as this is how folks in my hometown cook. The tofu is pan fried to create a meat like texture. With mushrooms in Sichuan chili bean paste, this tofu dish is not just homey but also very tasty. If you don’t have the wood ear mushroom, feel free to replace with shiitake mushroom or bamboo shoots.

To demonstrate that anyone can cook tofu, I did not use the highest grade tofu I could get. I also managed to drop the tofu pack while I was unloading the grocery but the tofu dish came out just as delicious and beautiful as it usually does.

Try this at home and tell me if you are still afraid of tofu. Or please share your tofu stories!

Home Style Tofu – Ingredients

1 pack Tofu, preferably firm
4 oz Chicken, sliced
1 piece Wood ear mushroom, re-hydrated and sliced

1 tbsp Spicy bean paste
2 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tsp Cooking wine
1 tsp Sugar
½ tsp White pepper powder
2 clove Garlic, sliced
1 slice Ginger, shredded
2 sprig Scallion, cut to 2 inch segments
3 tbsp water
Corn starch
Salt

Home Style Tofu – Step By Step

1. In boiling water, add 1 tbsp of salt and blanch the tofu for 3 minutes. Drain the tofu and cut into ½ inch thick triangles. The blanching part is optional and it is to reduce the natural soy bean taste.

2. Pan fry the tofu in a well oiled non-stick pan or skillet until both sides are golden. About 4 minutes per side over medium heat. Shake your pan often to prevent tofu from sticking.

3. In a clean pan, add 1 tbsp of oil, garlic, ginger, scallion (white parts), and chili bean paste. Stir-fry in medium heat until you can smell the aroma. About 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the sliced chicken. Cook for about 2 minutes or when it turns white. Add soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, white pepper powder, and water.

5. Combine the tofu and wood ear mushroom. Mix well with the sauce. Use corn starch to thicken the sauce if necessary. Add salt to taste (if necessary). Mix in the green parts of scallion at the end.


Serve this tasty tofu dish at your next party and your guests won’t even know it is tofu.

Free Ground Shipping on orders over $50 when you shop for the finest Teas at Teavana!

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy August 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

Good to have your blog again.

Since you are seeking requests, I will be bold here, and request away: would you have recipes for: real taro, bubble tea; 年糕 made with mashed carrots and coconut milk; 宮保 chicken? i love 宮保chicken, but won’t eat unethically treated meats, so that means, unfortunately, that i have to go without, or find a good recipe; I’ve tried six recipes already, I’m that desperate. But all been disappointing. Lastly, some healthy vegetarian dishes?

Thank you.
PS. We also love going to Paris.

Reply

2 Tim November 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Today I made this recipe, and it taste great. I like the way the tofu tasted. Ended up not making enough, though, so will make more next time. Replaced the mushroom, which I couldn’t find, with mini-mais.

This is something you can make on a workday, as it took me about 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s perfect for the regular day recipe-list. Would you have more suggestions for workday recipes (ie relatively quick to make, and not too many ingredients)?

Reply

3 Yi November 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

HI Tim, thanks for your feedback. I am glad to hear that the tofu dish came out great! I’ve been a little busy lately so I’ve done a lot of easy meals. I will be posting some weekday meal recipes going forward. Thanks.

Reply

4 Renee October 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Hello, love the way that dish looks and it sounds delicious. I have a question on the bean paste. When I go to the Chinese market, there are 100s of jars and many different kinds of spicy bean pastes. I have no idea which would be right for this dish. Could you give me a more specific name for the paste?

Reply

5 Yi October 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Hello Renee, i like to use the type of spicy bean paste called “Pixian” bean paste. Pixian is the name of the place known for its spicy bean paste. Depends on which region you like, Pixian bean paste can come in different kinds of packaging and under different brands. Here is a little more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubanjiang

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you still have questions. Thanks.

Reply

6 Lauren June 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hi Yi,

Thank you for posting these great recipes. I lived in china for three years and greatly miss authentic chinese food! I am vegetarian, always looking for ways to keep the flavor with veggie ingredients, it would be greatly appreciated if you could briefly give veg substitution advice! Do you know how to make baozi? Yuxiang eggplant? Veg mapo tofu?

Thanks:)

Reply

7 Yi June 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Hi Lauren, thanks for stopping by my blog. I am glad that you appreciate authentic Chinese food. I am not vegetarian though one of my new year resolustions for this year was to reduce my meat intake :) If you like Yuxiang eggplant, you’l probably like this braised eggplant dish. Just drop the pork part. mapo tofu is my comfort food but I have not posted it yet. When I do I will mention how to make it meatless. And of couse baozi used to be my breakfast all the time. I’ll post a recipe in the near future and I’ll try to include a vegetarian version.
Other vegetarian dishes I can think off my head are: thisChinese long bean dish, thesestir-fried bean sprounts, and my favorite bok choy dish.

If you go through my recipes, you’ll find some of them offer substitutions to make them meatless. But at anytime if you have questions regarding a specific dish, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks

Reply

8 Amy May 4, 2012 at 10:33 am

Have been looking for authentic home style Chinese recipes for a long time now, as i needed it in English( chinese only passable – still learning) and I think you’re It.

Your Sichuan trinity persuaded me that you know what you’re blogging about.

Thank you for helping us relive the original ‘backhome’ flavours.

Looking forward to more from your kitchen,
your fan.

Reply

9 Yi May 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Hello Amy, thank you so much for your kind words. I am really happy to hear that you have found this site helpful. Please feel free to let me know if you have any requests. Thanks.

Reply

10 Jeno @ Week Nite Meals February 17, 2012 at 12:00 am

Hi Yi, I made your tofu for tonight’s dinner and it was a HUGE hit, just wanted to let you know and thank you for sharing!

Reply

11 laura April 6, 2011 at 9:58 am

this looks delish!!

Reply

12 Yi April 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Thanks Laura!

Reply

13 Vivienne March 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm

i love tofu, period ;) yeah, it’s interesting how some ppl claim tofu is healthy while others believe it’s actually bad for you! i guess it’s all about moderation then ;)

i’ve never thought of adding wood ear mushroom to tofu! great idea!

Reply

14 Fiona March 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm

This article is informative. I just got introduced to tofu last year and have not had so much good experience with it. Will give this recipe a try.

Reply

15 James March 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm

This looks like something I would want to cook this weekend.
For some reason everytime I try to pan fry tofu I always have it stick to the bottom of the pan. Any trick to avoid that? And also what kind of chili bean paste is taht? Thank you.

Reply

16 Yi March 30, 2011 at 6:20 am

Hi James, I use a non-stick pan to fry the tofu. If you don’t use non-stick cookware, just be sure to oil the cookware generously and shake the cookware often to avoid sticking. Also, please use medium heat as opposed to high heat.

As for the Sichuan chili bean paste, I am working on a ingredient page so soon you’ll find more information on it. It is one of the most used condiments used in Sichuan cuisine and it is made of fermented beans and chili. You can get it in Chinese grocery stores. For additional info check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubanjiang

Reply

17 anna October 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Sometimes I like to prepare tofu by roasting it in the oven. Although, of course whether it sticks or not still depends on your pan and the amount of oil.

Reply

18 Yi October 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I’d say roasting the tofu will be less hassle. But I agree you’ll have to coat it with oil really well :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: