Mabo dofu plus…natto!

Vegetarian spicy tofu

I’ve written about mabo dofu (that is, spicy tofu, also transliterated as mapo doufu) before, because it’s so darn tasty. The origins are Szechwanese, but it’s a very popular dish in Japan.

This version was extra-special, though, based on a recipe that Yusuke happened upon recently. Traditional mabo dofu is supposed to have ground pork, or possibly ground beef, but that just ruins everything. This is a lovely vegan* version of the classic dish, with mushrooms and natto instead of dead animals. Yes, natto: those slippery, pungent fermented soybeans. Along with the mushrooms, they provided a perfect texture and layering of umami.

Yusuke pretty much followed his usual recipe (quantities are approximate):

  • 1/4 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chili bean sauce (a.k.a. tobanjan)
  • 1 tbsp sweet bean sauce (a.k.a. tenmenjan)
  • Broth*, around 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp katakuriko (Japanese potato starch), dissolved in 2 tbsp of water
  • Green onions, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 2 packages of silken tofu, cut into cubes
  • Lots of mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 packages of frozen natto
  • Splash of soy sauce
  • Splash of rice wine vinegar
  1. Saute ginger and garlic in sesame oil
  2. Add tenmenjan and tobanjan and stir
  3. Add mushrooms
  4. After mushrooms begin to cook, add natto and mix
  5. Add broth, tofu (gently), and green onions and continue to stir
  6. Add a tiny bit of vinegar and soy sauce
  7. Drizzle in the katakuriko mix
  8. Eat with plain rice (and miso soup and salad)

Lovely, filling texture and awesomely spicy taste.

*Yusuke used chicken stock, but veggie broth is fine, as is dashi stock.

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Wine bottle

Yes, it’s true, I judge wines (as well as books) by their labels. This was a very lovely chardonnay from the Great Southern (Western Australia).

wine

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Tofu making: the fail episode

The great tofu making adventure of 2011 was successful, if messy, and it seemed like high time to try again.

The steps were pretty much the same in this episode:

  1. Buy soy beans from the grocery store (dried)
  2. Soak overnight. 300g soy beans in 1 litre of water
  3. Drain the beans and purée in the blender
  4. Boil the purée with more water. Cook until there is no more “green”/raw smell, about 10 minutes
  5. Put the purée in muslin cloth and squeeze out the liquid into a bowl in order to the separate the “extra” material (okara*)
  6. Heat the liquid (now soy milk) to 70 degrees C in microwave
  7. Add nigari* and mix quickly
  8. Wait until the tofu sets
  9. Eat! [and clean up]

However, we had a lot of trouble at the muslin cloth step. The soy bean mixture was pretty mashy and although we squeezed with all our might and used a variety of implements, we couldn’t get much liquid out. So after about 2 hours of work, we had only 4 small ramekins of soy milk. We had tons of okara, though, so that’s a success.

The second problem was that the tofu didn’t set. It just stayed at soy milk consistency. I don’t know if was a problem with the nigari or the temperature or what. Sad panda. So we ended up with a wee bit of soy milk and lots of okara. And lots of mess. Ah well, it was a diversion.

*See previous post

Ready to squeeze

Ready to squeeze

Okara

Okara

A wee bit of soy milk was produced

A wee bit of soy milk was produced

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New Year’s Eve soba: goodbye 2014

I almost forgot to post, but for the sake of documentation, here is the soba with which we farewelled 2014.

We also finished of our Stella Bella Chardonnay (Margaret River) and joined the revelry in Northbridge Piazza. Time flies like an arrow.

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soba mixed

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Pretty barramundi

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No particular recipe here, but it’s a pretty picture! Barramundi is an Indian Ocean fish that’s often seen on menus here, but I don’t think that I’d had it before this. Very tasty. The fish was grilled with sesame oil and dressed with ponzu (citrus) sauce.

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Okonomiyaki-lite

DSC06206
This was sort of okonomiyaki-lite: just simple cabbage and much less batter than the standard.

For the batter:
5-6 tbsp flour
100-200 mL of water with a pinch of dashi
3 eggs
4 tbsp of okara with enough water to moisten (or crumbled firm tofu)

To make:

  1. Dump chopped cabbage in a bowl
  2. Add the okara and stir
  3. Add the flour and stir
  4. Add the water and stir
  5. Add beaten eggs and stir

When the consistency is even, pour everything in a frying pan and cook until lightly browned.

Since there wasn’t much batter, the whole mass was rather fragile. To flip it, Yusuke used a large plate: place the plate over the cabbage, hold it and flip the pan upside down to get the cabbage onto the plate, then slide it back in.

Garnish with green onions and okonomyaki fixings (mayo, okonomi sauce, bonito flakes).

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Quick miso tip

Miso soup

 

Oh, this poor blog. I think about it a lot, but I can’t seem to wriggle in time to post. C’est la vie.

Here’s a quick tip, though, that I thought was worth noting for my own future use, at the very least.

Miso soup is foundational to Japanese cuisine, and we have it nearly everyday. We alternate between white (shiro) and red (aka) miso, usually according to which is on sale. It turns out that adding a small amount of sake—a tablespoon or so—to soup made with aka miso really boosts the taste, making it tangier and richer. I was surprised that such a small addition could make that much of a difference. Definitely recommended.

(Not sure if it works with shiro miso; will report back.)

Red and white miso

Images from Wikimedia Commons with CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses

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