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Getting the most from Shiping Tofu 香煎石屏豆腐

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Shelley

Thank you, as usual you manage to impart a small piece of China in your posts.

 

The history, customs and actual food all go together to make a picture of how life is tied up with food.

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abcdefg

Thanks for your kind words, Shelly. When I make something like this at home it brings back pleasant memories of where I have eaten it before.

 

Once in Jianshui, sitting around the communal tofu grill snacking on a little of this fine stuff, two young women struck up a conversation. They and their parents were from nearby and had come to town for the one-year "christening" ceremony of a cousin's baby boy. They asked if I would please join them and their family for dinner upstairs, because it was considered good luck to have a foreigner present at that kind of occasion.

 

I agreed and we went up to a private dining room where I held the baby for countless photos. Three or maybe four generations were there: from the infant to a 90-something toothless grannie. Everyone was jolly and we had a huge feast that seemed to never stop coming. The last thing was a special-ordered birthday cake with white icing. The young kids all ate it with their hands while running around and singing; before long most of us adults were wearing bits of cake as well.

 

Part of the Jianshui magic.

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abcdefg

Might add that, as you can well imagine, in a country where everyone loves tofu, there are hundreds of variations on tasty ways to make it at home "family style" 家常菜。Here's another quick one that I like, using the same kind of Shiping tofu 石屏豆腐 as above.

 

This recipe uses 生姜, which is a milder-tasting variety of the ginger rhizome, together with large scallion 大葱,thinly sliced on a bias, sauteed with oyster sauce 蚝油。

 

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Brown the tofu on both sides in a non-stick, flat-bottom skillet, and then take it out.

 

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Lightly saute the slivered ginger and onion, add the oyster sauce, and return the cooked tofu to the skillet. Mix it up to coat well, and serve.

 

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This makes a terrific snack which is ready in a flash. It goes without saying that if you don't have Shiping tofu 石屏豆腐 available, you can very well use other kinds.

 

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Alex_Hart

Great post, abc. Is the latter tofu different only because of the place, or is the method different as well? I seem to recall seeing Jianshui tofu undergoes some sort of different processing when I watched  舌尖上的中国, but perhaps my memory is tricking me. 

 

Tofu in Jianshui was one of my two favorite meals in Yunnan. I had it in Kunming from a place that had an assortment of 50 sauces to go with it, Jianshui right near the famous garden (not the Confucian one), again in Yuanyang with the owner of my guesthouse where the cook put small corn kernels in a bowl every time you took a piece of tofu, and finally again outside of Yuanyang in a gritty transportation hub where shirtless men were hacking away at sugarcane next to aunties selling giant bunches of bananas. Every time, I was astounded at the cheap price, and wished I could find a similar sort of dish up here in Hangzhou. No luck.

 

Eating while on low stools right next to the street means that almost every meal becomes memorable. It had been a longtime dream of mine to go to Yunnan and this was my first meal upon arrival. Actually, I didn't arrive until 3 or 4 am and didn't manage to arrive at my hostel until 5 am. Waking up closer to lunch time, I felt pretty OK getting this to go with my noodles

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It was good, but the sauces at another place in Kunming blew my mind. And the chef-owner, afraid that I wouldn't know how to mix the right sauce, did it for me. I counted 13 different spoons going into my bowl.

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And finally, my gritty transportation hub tofu was awesome. Paired with 凉拌 and a bowl of rice, it made the perfect "last meal" before getting onto a very long bus down to 西双版纳. As I was right on the street, I entered into a lively conversation with four aunties. Their first question was whether I was married, second was whether my girlfriend was Chinese, third whether she was a girl from Yunnan. They then set off on a lively debate about all the ways a Yunnan girl is better than a Zhejiang girl. This went on for a good 10 minutes, though I missed most of the nuance due to a mix of my Chinese level, their accents and my hunger. 

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When I arrived back in Hangzhou and was convincing my classmates and my teacher than Yunnan was in contention for best places in China, this dish often came up as a point in my argument. I'm getting hungry thinking about it.

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abcdefg

Shiping tofu and Jianshui tofu are very similar in taste. Frankly, I usually cannot tell them apart.

 

Sounds like you hit the mother lode on your Yunnan trip! I love the photo of all those different dipping sauce components. And I see you also tried roast tofu with dry spices as well as the wet ones. Both ways are delicious and each method has its advocates.
 

One of the prized additives for roast Yunnan tofu sauces is a strange root vegetable called zhe er gen 折耳根。If I'm not mistaken, some of it is on the 凉拌 plate in your last photo, along with strips of 豆腐皮, peanuts and some small-leafed greens, maybe something wild 野菜。

 

It has an unusual, kind of "fishy" taste and takes a little getting used to. It's often used here as a salad 凉拌。I made some recently as part of a tofu sauce, and took snapshots of the process. One must pull off the tiny root hairs as one washes it. Then blanch it quickly, allowing it to remain crunchy and distinctive.

 

 

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I combined the 折耳根 with 韭菜 and minced garlic plus a large dollop of home-made dark and hot 辣椒酱。Then, instead of using it as a dipping sauce, I sauteed the tofu with it briefly in a skillet. (Since I cannot roast things over coals at home, I use the "saute in skillet" approach instead.)

 

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Alex_Hart

The dipping sauces were great, but sadly difficult to photograph as they were on a long aluminum table with a light directly above it. Looked much more appetizing in person.

 

Looks gorgeous, abc. Yes, I've had it a lot here - they eat it in western Zhejiang where my girlfriend is from as a medicinal thing. It's supposed to be good for your intestines and colon, but Hangzhouers have more often than not described it as gross when I ate it with them. I enjoy the texture, really sets it apart from other veg. My favorite restaurant in Hangzhou is a vegetarian buffet at a monastery (20 kuai for unlimited food; add 5 kuai for unlimited hot pot), and they invariably have it. Other monasteries also seem to serve it often. Have not seen it in the markets here yet - seasonal?

 

Is the 烧豆腐 just normal tofu? I remember it having a distinct flavor that I could never place. Looks kind of like 油豆腐 after they grill it, but wondering if the flavor just comes from the charcoal.

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abcdefg
On 6/24/2017 at 5:04 PM, Alex_Hart said:

Is the 烧豆腐 just normal tofu?

 

The more I know about tofu, the more complex the subject seems to become. There are so many little wrinkles and tricks in making it and there are so many different kinds, that I no longer could even pretend to know what "normal tofu" even means. The main variables that I see day to day in the market are, first of all the shape, and second of all how dry or wet it is. That influences how it is best prepared, how it is best used.

 

The tofu most often used for grilling over coals 烤豆腐 is firm and shaped in small bricks or brickettes. When I tell the tofu seller I want to saute it in a pan 煎, then they give me tofu that comes in small sheets, with a firm center (as in the first recipe above.) They call this 老豆腐。If I tell the vendor I want to make 包浆豆腐 (which has a soft, runny center,) then they give me small-sheet tofu that is quite a bit softer. They usually call this 生豆腐。Both this and 老豆腐 have been briefly air dried; they have a thin crust.

 

But if I tell them I plan to use it in a soup, such as in this recipe with green pea shoots 豌豆尖, they give me tofu that has not been air dried at all. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/47614-wandoujian-toufu-soup-豌豆尖豆腐汤/ 

 

If I tell them I want to use it in a stir fry, I'm more likely to get noodle-like strands of it or thin strips of 豆腐皮 and so on. Plus we should not forget stinky tofu 臭豆腐, smoked tofu 熏豆腐干,hairy tofu 毛豆腐,and the many seasoned kinds.

 

Tofu in China is a large subject and my grasp of it is small. Afraid I'm still a "tofu novice."  

 

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Have not seen it in the markets here yet - seasonal?

 

I see 折耳根 for sale here all year round. Yunnan people love it and buy it a lot. I've found its 腥味 flavor difficult to like.

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Alex_Hart

Indeed! There's a tofu lady in my market and she has around 15-18 different kinds of tofu. This doesn't include the seasonal ones, like smoked tofu (only available during winter). However, none of the tofus seem to have the same natural taste as the 烤豆腐 I tried in Jianshui. 

 

I've been hunting 毛豆腐 but I haven't found it yet. Heard it's available in southern Zhejiang - is it also available in Yunnan?

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