Citizens, while it is true that your Beloved – the awesome force of culinary nature that alone is TFD! – is an omnivore, I have very few recipes here on the blog using tofu. This must change immediately, as this particular recipe is both easy and utterly delicious – assuming you like the unique flavor and texture of Chinese preserved century eggs, of course! if not, please move along… This dish is all about different textures – revel in them as well as the flavors of China redolent in my recipe!
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food prepared by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is a traditional component in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine and has been consumed in China for over 2,000 years. Tofu can be soft (silken), firm, or extra firm. It has a subtle flavor and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish.
Tofu has a low calorie count and relatively large amount of protein. It is high in iron, and can have a high calcium or magnesium content, depending on the coagulants used in manufacturing (e.g. calcium chloride, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate).
The English term “tofu” comes from Japanese tōfu (豆腐), borrowed from the original Chinese equivalent (豆腐 dòufu (pinyin)), literally “bean” (豆) + “curdled” or “fermented” (腐).
A reference to the word towfu exists in a letter dated 1770 from the English merchant James Flint to American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin. This is believed to be the first documented use of the word in English.
The term “bean curd(s)” for tofu has been used in the United States since at least 1840. It is rarely used outside of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Tofu-making was first recorded during the Chinese Han dynasty some 2,000 years ago. Tofu and its production technique were introduced to Japan during the Nara period (710–794). Some scholars believe tofu arrived in Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries. It spread to other parts of Southeast Asia as well.
This probably coincided with the spread of Buddhism as it is an important source of protein in the vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddhism. Li Shizhen, during the Ming Dynasty, described a method of making tofu in the Compendium of Materia Medica. Since then, tofu has become a staple in many countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea, with regional variations in production methods, texture, flavor, and usage.
The most commonly held of the theories of tofu’s origin maintains that tofu was discovered by Lord Liu An, a Han Dynasty prince. While plausible, the paucity of reliable sources for this period makes this difficult to conclusively determine. In Chinese history, important inventions were frequently attributed to important leaders and figures of the time.
In 1960, a stone mural unearthed from an Eastern Han dynasty tomb provided support for the theory of Han origin of tofu; however some scholars maintain that tofu during the Han dynasty was rudimentary and lacked the firmness and taste for it to be considered as tofu.
Another theory suggests that the production method for tofu was discovered accidentally when a slurry of boiled, ground soybeans was mixed with impure sea salt. Such sea salt would probably have contained calcium and magnesium salts, allowing the soy mixture to curdle and produce a tofu-like gel.
Citizens, my version of this particular dish draws on culinary elements from all China, taking full advantage of the vinegar of Zhejiang province as well as pickled vegetables from Sichuan province. It has a bit more flavor in the sauce than typical, and I am confident you will love this dish! I have also added in a bit of hybrid fusion by using some pickled peppadew peppers, which add a great pop of both color and flavor as well as being harmonious with the Asian ingredients.
The recipe also calls for pork “floss” – which is dried, seasoned pork that has been pulled into cottony threads. When buying your tofu, please make sure you are purchasing the correct kind – you want a package labeled “soft” or “silken” tofu. The texture is unmatched, but it can be hard to eat with chopsticks. Never fear – just use a spoon or follow my freezing tip to firm up the tofu a bit for easier chopstick manipulation.
You can buy excellent-quality Sichuan preserved vegetable here; peppadew peppers here; Sichuan preserved ya cai here; century eggs here; top-quality oyster sauce here; Chinese black vinegar here; Sichuan peppercorns here and pork floss here. As always, if you have an Asian or Chinese grocer near you, that is a much cheaper way of acquiring these ingredients than buying from Amazon.
Battle on – The Generalissimo