Sesame Cucumber Salad

It’s the time of year when my garden is overflowing with cucumbers. I made this impromptu salad and brought it to a communal dinner. It was quite a hit and I enjoyed the leftovers the next day as a snack.

1/2 inch piece of ginger, graded

3 cloves garlic, pressed or grated

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sea salt

3 large shallots

4 medium cucumbers

2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

  1. Combine the ginger, garlic, oil, salt, and vinegar.
  2. Cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise, thinly slice
  3. Thinly slice the shallots
  4. Combine and vegetables
  5. Add the sesame seeds.
  6. Let sit for at least an hour before serving.

Hot and Sour Soup

I’d never tried Hot and Sour Soup because usually at restaurants it’s not vegetarian. I’ve always wanted to try it though, so I was excited when I found this recipe from The Woks of Life.

The hardest part of making this recipe was finding the ingredients. I’d never cooked with a number of them, including dried spiced tofu, lily flowers, and wood ear mushrooms. I spent a really long time wandering around my local asian market looking for the ingredients. It took me a particularly long time to realize that dried spiced tofu would be in the refrigerated section with the regular tofu.

Once I had all the ingredients, this was really easy and quick to make. And quite tasty. My only issue was that it was a bit too spicy for me. Next time I made it I’d half the white pepper called for.

Quick and Easy Braised Tofu (Hongshao Dofu)

I found the instructions for this recipe really confusing. I feel fairly confident that if I had figured out the instructions, the result would have been pretty good. But as I made it I ended up with burned crumbly tofu, mushy vegetables, and little sauce.

The core problem was that the recipe said to turn down the pan to medium while cooking the tofu if it took you more than a minute to flip it all. I did that, but the tofu didn’t actually end up cooked, and then later crumbled once I added the veggies. In trying to compensate for this, I ended up overcooking the veggies. Then I tried to fix it by taking out the veggies and cooking the tofu further, but the tofu burned and all the sauce evaporated.

The flavor wasn’t bad but everything else was a mess. I might try making this again, but I just don’t see how it’s possible for the tofu to fully cook in one minute.

Homestyle Tofu

When I get Chinese takeout, homestyle tofu is my go to order. The thing that makes it so amazing is the flavor packed multi layered flaky triangles of deep-fried tofu. I’ve been craving it so much lately that I’ve begun to think about learning how to cook it. I’d never thought about it before because I don’t deep fry at home. But I figured if I was going to be eating it I might as well get over my deep frying aversion.

I’ve been eating tofu my entire life and cooking it for as long as I’ve been cooking, but I’ve never tried to deep fry it. For this recipe I ventured into the unknown, pouring a cup of canola oil into my cast iron pan. I don’t know if the issue was that I was deep frying in a cast iron pan instead of a wok or deep fryer, but the tofu basically came out like an extra oily version of my standard pan-fried tofu. Definitely not work the extra calories. Next time I make this I might experiment with baking the tofu, which I’ve found to create a better texture for a healthy alternative to fried tofu than pan frying. I still really want to learn to make restaurant style fried tofu at home, but I guess I’m going back to the drawing board.

Other than the fried tofu issue, this recipe was pretty good. It didn’t taste exactly like restaurant homestyle tofu, but it was very good. I think with some tweaking I can get there. The sauce was a little more vinegary than I’m used to. I also doubled the sauce since when I eat this at restaurants I always want more sauce. I think this was excessive. Next time I might do 1.5x or the standard sauce amount. Even though I doubled the sauce, I left the cornstarch slurry at the normal amount. I think the sauce wasn’t as thick as it should have been as a result.

I completely ignored the vegetable recommendations and just added what I wanted. I put in 1.5 heads of broccoli. A bell pepper. 5 mushrooms. 10 oz bamboo shoots. 16 oz baby corn. And a head of bok choy.

Update: I made this a second time with some tweaks. Instead of frying the tofu I baked it. I sprayed the triangles one both sides with canola oil and cooked them on a cookie sheet on 425 (ish, my oven is broken) for 50 minutes (ish, once again, my oven is broken), flipping halfway through. I really enjoyed the baked tofu. Although it wasn’t at all the same as the fried tofu, it was very good. The texture of the tofu was satisfying and I didn’t miss the fried tofu really.

I also adjusted the sauce. I multiplied the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water by 1.5 and left the other sauce ingredients as written in the recipe. But the resulting sauce was too salty. I ended up adding an extra teaspoon of vinegar and sugar at the end, which seemed just right. I think I’ll use these ratios in the future. Except I might add a little extra doubanjiang to up the flavor and spice factor. Maybe an extra teaspoon.