There are some recipes you cook that turn out to be a disappointment. The version of this recipe I tried yesterday fits into that category. It was based on the recipe for Red Braised Pork in Fuscia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. I used tofu instead of pork and used 5 Spice Powder instead of the cinnamon and star anise. It simmered in the slow cooker for four hours, filling my flat with the fragrance of Chinatown. I had such hopes for this dish, glistening with the flavourful sauce coating the tofu.
What I got was thin, watery and brown. In retrospect the mushrooms were probably a mistake. They added great texture and a whole lot more brownness than I really wanted. It was impossible to photograph it so it looked appealing. There was no amount of spring onion garnish in the world that was going to stop it looking brown and grim. It tasted great. It looked like nothing on earth.
Anyway, one lives and learns. This version has no mushrooms, but a chopped pepper (yay! colour!) and I’ve added some cornflour to thicken up the sauce.
This is much better – a lovely, warming stew, reminding us that Chinese cooking is not all about fast and frantic stir fries. It is also, accidentally, a fat-free recipe (if you don’t bother with the drizzle of sesame oil at the end).
250g firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 red or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
10g ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp 5 Spice Powder
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornflour
250ml vegetable stock
sesame oil for drizzling
1 spring onion, chopped for garnish
Add the tofu, mushrooms, spring onion, ginger, sugar, five spice powder, rice wine and soy sauce to the slow cooker pot.
Mix the cornflour with a little water and then stir in the vegetable stock until it has all dissolved.
Pour the vegetable stock until you have just covered the ingredients. This takes about 250ml in my slow cooker, but yours may vary.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
When cooked, stir, season with salt, drizzle over some sesame oil and garnish with the chopped spring onion.
Serves 2 as a dinner with rice and stir fried greens
You can make this on the stove. In which case simmer it for 90 minutes. You will probably need to add a bit more stock to allow for it drying out.