Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I did it. I made a Chinese-ish stir-fry, by myself, all alone, from scratch, without a wok, and it's edible. Here’s some background on me, I grew up with a Vietnamese best friend who had a fucking CHEF for a mom who would feed me the most insanely delicious things ever to come from the hands of man! I ate (almost) everything she would set in front of me, even the weird stuff that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) translate to English. Then I got a waitress gig at an authentic Thai restaurant owned and operated by a family. For every shift you worked they would feed you a meal with whatever the chefs felt like making that day, curry, larb gai, tom yum, pad woon sen, spicy basil…and it was all incredible. On top of this I’ve had real Korean barbecue fed to me by a real Korean grandmother, and enough Japanese food to know what is passable and what is junk. And now that I live in Philly, I can frequent Chinatown to my heart’s content, stuffing my face with the best and cheapest Chinese food I’ve ever had. For the record, Peeking duck with plum sauce and green onion wrapped up in those little rice tortilla things are better than sex.
To sum it up: I’m spoiled, really, really spoiled when it comes to most Asian food. I can’t even eat crappy take-out pork lo mein any more without craving pad kee mow instead. So when I try to make my own Asian grub, which is very rare, I am almost always disappointed and slightly nauseated at my utter lack of skill in that cooking department. Hell I even manage to burn rice in my top quality rice cooker! Confession: rice hates me, but I love it.

So here is my lame ass attempt. Honestly though, it’s the best I’ve ever made, and completely edible. This batch made enough for about 4 people.

2 large crowns broccoli, get ones with stems
1 red bell pepper
16 oz portabella mushrooms
1 can water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots
16 oz package firm tofu drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes

Marinate the tofu cubes in 1/3 cup soy sauce and 1 tbs chili oil in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. In a large sauté pan fry the tofu in a couple tbs vegetable oil (or whatever oil you like) until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Set aside until vegetables are ready.

Cut the vegetables however you like them, just make them fairly uniform in size to get even cooking.
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the broccoli florets and stems (use a potato peeler to get the tough outer skin off and cut the interior into chucks) along with the carrots (sliced into thick rounds) for no more than 2 minutes, you want them a little firmer than fork tender. In a large, hot sauté pan (or wok if you roll like that) add the mushrooms with a few tablespoons of oil and cook 1 minute until softened. Add the drained blanched vegetables, water chestnuts and peppers and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the tofu and sauce and stir to coat and heat through. Serve with steamed white or brown rice.


2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup water or stock (low sodium)
2 tbs chili oil
2 tbs sesame oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs ginger (grated fresh or dry powder)
½ cup chopped onion
4 tbs honey
½ tbs sesame seeds

2 tbs corn starch dissolved in ¼ cup water

Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan, add garlic, onion and fresh ginger, if using. Sauté for 1 minute, then add all other ingredients except corn starch. Bring to boil, slowly drizzle in the corn starch slurry while stirring the sauce. You may not need all of it to achieve the thickness you want, I only used about half. Reduce heat to med low and cook for 1 minute, taste and add whatever you want, more sweet/spicy/sour. Pour into bowl and set aside.

You could use chicken or pork instead of tofu, but i'm broke as a joke and 1 lb of tofu only cost me $2.50. Actually, with the exception of the sesame oil ($4.00!), and assuming you have all that weird stuff like chinese chili oil just laying around in your fridge (I've had it for over a year, it just doesn't go bad!) this is pretty damn cheap for feeding 4 people. The tofu and veges cost me less than $10, so if you stock up on the main sauce ingredients, which don't go bad, you can make many batches of this for next to nothing. Don't buy this stuff from your local mega-huge-mart, they will have crappy American versions and charge you rediculous amounts. If you can, shop at an Asian grocer where the signs are not in English, or get a Vietnamese family to adopt you.

No comments: