Monday, March 14, 2011

Nappa Tofu (白菜豆腐)

Pronounced: bái cài dòu fuMy mother and I had a debate earlier on how to name this dish. The conversation went something like this: "Mom, what's the name for the dish I just made? What do you mean you don't know? What do you mean you just threw it all together and called it a dish?" After much brainstorming, we came up with the most creative name we could...which was Nappa Tofu. (I was going to add 'homestyle', but decided against it.) So my point is, don't try ordering this dish at your local Chinese restaurant. Chances are, the waiter will look at you funny.

What you'll need:
Nappa Cabbage (5-7 leaves depending on the size of the cabbage)
1 block of firm tofu
2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (or soy sauce alternative)
1 inch of fresh ginger root
vegetable oil

**If you are worried about sodium, rest assured that most of the soy sauce
doesn't get eaten unless you decide to drink the sauce...which I don't know why you would.

Here are the steps:
1. Wash the nappa leaves and save the rest of the cabbage for another meal. Chop the leaves into small strips. Drain the tofu and cut into small rectangular pieces.
2. Chop the ginger into thin slivers, sort of like matchsticks. I've read recipes where people peel their ginger, but I've never met anyone who actually bothered to peel it. Personally, I feel it's unnecessary.
3. Drizzle oil in a pan on medium high to high heat. Lightly fry the tofu in until golden and remove from the pan when done. Be sure to turn the tofu pieces so all the sides are cooked. Don't go overboard with the oil, we're not deep-frying it...but if that's what you want, go for it.
4. Transfer the tofu into a pot on h
igh heat. Add 2 tbsp of soy sauce and the ginger.
5. Cover the pot, and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Then, flip the tofu onto the other side and let it sit for another 3 minutes.
6. Replenish the water and then add the nappa leaves. Cove
r and let it cook until nappa leaves are soft, but not mushy. Stir to get it to cook evenly.
7. Add the 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce.
Bring the heat down to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes to fully get the flavor into the tofu (the longer the better). Stir and serve!

Cooking, like all other things, gets better with experience. Practice and you'll know when to stir, when to add water, and when the food is done. The measurements for most Chinese food recipes are really just guidelines. So, happy eating and cooking!

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