Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cooking: Shiitake Mushroom, Bok Choy, and Fried Tofu

For Lunar New Year, you're always supposed to offer one vegetarian dish. Not sure why but it's always there. I don't mind because I actually enjoy vegetables when they're prepared properly. They have a lot a of flavor and texture that's quite unique. There's also so many different kinds of vegetables you can eat that you'll never get bored. For my vegetarian dish, I prepared bok choy, purple potato noodles, shiitake mushrooms, and fried tofu.

The bok choy and purple potato noodles are fairly straight forward. For each bok choy, I cut it into quarters, then blanched them into salted boiling water. A dip into an ice bath keeps it crisp. The purple potato noodles were also boiled in salted boiling water then rinsed under cold water. This step helps remove starch and gives the noodles a nice bounce and chewiness. For plating, I put the noodles on the bottom, then layered the boy choy around the edge.
For the mushrooms, I like to use dried shiitake mushrooms that I reconstitute with boiling water. I just soak them for an hour and they become pliable and soft again. Snip off the stems and they're ready to cook. I sauteed them in oil and a bit of soy sauce. Then I added some chicken or vegetable stock to create a sauce. I thickened it slightly with corn starch. Finally, I poured the sauce over the noodles then lined the mushrooms on the inner circle of the bok choy. I had the mushrooms on its sides so that it creates a basket for the tofu.
Tofu is really easy to cook and tastes wonderful. It has a creamy texture and the flavor is bland. But it can absorb any other flavor that it encounters. It's really versatile. For frying, I like to use firm tofu as it is easier to handle and holds up better.
I took one block of tofu and cut it into smaller bite sized pieces. Then I coated it with corn starch and eggs whites (same of the honey walnut shrimp recipe).
I heated up some oil and fried the tofu individually until crispy. It doesn't take too long about 3-5 minutes.
I layered the tofu into the bowl and voila! A very easy but delicious vegetarian dish. Pretty too.

Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy, and Fried Tofu over Purple Potato Noodles
Makes 4-6 Servings

Ingredients
8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
4 Shanghai bok choy, quartered and washed
1/4 lb of purple potato noodles
4 1/2 to 5 oz firm tofu block
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp corn starch, divided
1 egg white
Oil
Salt

Directions
1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in boiling water for about 1 hour or overnight until completely softened. Drain, and remove the stems. Set aside.
2. Create an ice bath with ice and cold water. Then, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and oil, then bok choy. Cook until bok choy is slightly softened about 5 minutes. Strain and dump into ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain again.
3. Using the same pot of water, cook the purple potato noodles until softened about 10-12 minutes. Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
4. In a medium pan on high heat, add 1 tbsp oil then mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes then add 2 tbsp soy sauce. Cook 2 minutes then add stock. Bring back up to a boil. Mix 1 tbsp corn starch with 2 tbsp of cold water. Then add to sauce. Bring back up to a boil and the sauce will thicken. Let cook about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. Cut tofu into 1/2 inch sized cubes. Pat dry. Mix 1 tbsp corn starch and 1 egg white together until well mixed. Add too tofu to coat.
6. Heat up a medium pot of oil to 350oF. Add tofu one at a time to avoid clumping. Fry until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Drain on wire rack.
7. Assemble the dish with the noodles on the bottom, then the boy choy layered one over the other in a ring along the edge. Place the shiitake mushrooms around the inner circle of the bok choy on its side acting as a cradle for the fried tofu. Pour the mushroom sauce over the noodles. Then add the fried tofu in the middle and serve immediately.

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