The tofu with Black Bean Sauce, also known as “see tzup dou fu” (豉汁豆腐) in Cantonese, is one of my go-to dishes for vegetarian and vegan guests on a meatless Monday. I believe with all my heart that I could probably give up meat if all vegan food tasted as savory and delicious as this tofu with black bean sauce. Yes, it’s shocking, but it’s true!
Thoughts on Fresh Tofu
“Good tofu” is the key to making any tofu dish taste good. I’ve probably eaten hundreds of pounds (if not more) of tofu products in my life, but I can only count on one hand the number of times I’ve had tofu that tasted great.
All those memorable tofu experiences had one thing in common: the tofu was made fresh and had a strong taste of soybeans. Even though we all know what tofu is, and there are a lot of tofu products in supermarkets, it can be hard to find delicious, fresh-tasting tofu in the United States.
When I think about it, the smooth movements of the tofu master and the strong smell of cooked soybeans still come to mind.
These businesses are still strong in China, where hardworking people make all kinds of products (tofu puffs, silken tofu, tofu skin, etc.) for their local communities.
I remember my mom buying a piece of hot tofu, and some thick tofu sheets, also called “a thousand sheets – 千张.” She then added some fresh green chilies and stir-fried the tofu sheets. Delicious. Update: We’ve created a recipe for this stir-fry with tofu sheets!
Another great tofu memory I have is from Hong Kong. I couldn’t remember how the soup tasted, but I’ll never forget how the tofu in it tasted. When I go back to Hong Kong to see my friend, this subject always comes up. My friend can’t remember where that tiny restaurant is, which is terrible for me. It’s just a faraway tofu dream.
So, if I haven’t already made it clear, I love fresh tofu, and the quality of the tofu I eat is vital to me. Fresh tofu has that robust and fresh soybean smell that you can’t miss. When I see tofu recipes saying to blanch the tofu to get rid of the “tofu smell” before cooking it, it blows my mind.
Fresh tofu should be available to everyone. And if you want to know how new something tastes, all you have to do is bite into it.
- 450g of firm tofu
- 3 tablespoons of oil (divided)
- 2 heads of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of fermented black beans, (rinsed)
- 2 scallions (cut into large pieces, whites and greens separated)
- 3 deseeded and chopped fresh or dried red chili peppers (optional)
- 1 spoonful of Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 tsp. of light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon of white ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of cornflour (dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water)
- Cut the tofu into squares that are 14 inches thick. Properly use a paper towel to dry each piece of tofu, then set it aside.
- Set a clean wok or cast iron skillet over high heat until it just starts to smoke. This step is essential if you don’t want the tofu to stick. Turn the heat to medium and coat your pan with 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the tofu in a pan on both sides until it turns a light golden color. Take the tofu off the heat and put it on a plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil, the garlic, black beans, the white parts of the scallions, and the chopped chilies to your wok and heat it over medium heat. Depending on how spicy your chilies are and how much heat you can handle, you may want to add more, less, or none. I used seven dried chilies without the seeds.
- Stir everything together and let it cook for one minute; be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tofu, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, sugar, and the green parts of the scallions.
- Stir-fry slowly so that the tofu doesn’t get broken up. Stir your cornstarch mixture until it starts to bubble to make sure the entire cornstarch is dissolved.
- Then, put it in the wok and stir quickly and gently until the sauce thickens and covers the tofu evenly. Serve right away!