Bean Curd Stick With Shitake Mushrooms and Minced Pork

I guess if I was forced to choose the one type of food I love the most it would be Asian (pretty tricky choice huh?) and Chinese in particular if I had to hone it down. The variety of styles and dishes is as varied as the country and the different historic influences that formed it.

Bean curd or "tofu" is something that gets many lo fung to wrinkle up their noses at the mere mention of it. I don't know why. My middle daughter does not like it because it "jiggles" and she hates jiggly food (jello will make her gag and send her swallower into reverse, funny to watch really) and she says that tofu is jiggly and thus she won't eat it as a matter of principle. It is her loss...

There is a dish that I often crave and normally only ever eat it at a restaurant and I was craving it today. Badly. I don't now why the craving hit so hard but it did and when that happens I am forced to act. So I headed off to my cookbook stash and waded through a few volumes, then to the internet and by combining 3 recipes I came up with a taste that is a killer.

The craving could only be satisfied by tofu, dried bean curd sticks to be specific. I don't know how they make it but it has something to do with when the soy beans  are processed to make tofu the "skin" that forms at the top of the tank is skimmed off then there it is; bean curd stick.

The tofu in the the miso soup I hold so dear and in a Ma Po Tofu are at the top of the tofu preference list for me along with the dish below.  I have been told, tonight as a matter of fact, that the dish looks "nasty". Nasty!? Can you believe that?  Hell if this looks too nasty to eat then all the vagitarians out there really need to take a close look at what they're putting in their mouths (you know who you are, don't blush or turn away)! An acquired taste (read I don't like this shit) I can accept. Nasty? Not so much. Heathens...

Anyway, snide comments about nasty looking tofu aside (look like guts they said), here is a dish that will rock your world if you let it. If not, let me offer you the directions to McDonalds, I understand McRib is back on the menu for you types...

1 lb minced or ground pork

1 Tbsp canola oil
200 grams dried bean curd stick

1 oz dried shitake mushrooms, see note below

2 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken stock, unsalted or low sodium is best

1 cup mushroom liquid (see directions below)
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp sweet soy sauce, (kecap manis)

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

1 Tbsp sweet bean paste (optional but very good)

1 - 2 Tbsp chili paste

2 Tbsp tapioca starch or corn starch

Place mushrooms into a bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water, stir occasionally to ensure they all get a chance to swim in the pool. After the mushrooms have had a nice soak for about 30 minutes, remove them from the liquid, cut the stems off, set aside, reserving the liquid. If they are large mushrooms cut into quarters, bite size kind of.

Allow the liquid to settle (sand and stuff will settle to the bottom, see the picture) then pour off 1 cup into a small bowl, set aside.

Place dried bean curd into a bowl and cover with hot water, allow to soak for 10 minutes. They will float so I use a plate to hold them under water, ignoring their pleading and protesting while I do.

Once the bean curd is soft (it will turn nearly white by then) remove it and drain well, cut into 2" pieces, set aside.
Into a 3 cup bowl or measuring cup add the chicken stock, the reserved mushroom liquid, dark soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce, sweet bean paste (if using) and chili sauce. Mix well until all ingredients are completely incorporated.

Once the sauce is well mixed add the tapioca starch and stir well to dissolve, set aside.

In a wok or heavy pot over high heat, add oil then place pork and garlic into it, stirring to break it up well.

Once the pork is slightly brown add the mushrooms then continue to cook, stirring often to prevent burning until the moisture has evaporated. About 5 minutes.

Once pork, mushroom and garlic is cooked, add the sauce and stir well.  Continue to stir to prevent scorching and cook for 2 minutes and the sauce has thickened up.

Once sauce has thickened, add drained and chopped bean curd, stir gently at this point to prevent the bean curd from breaking up. Cook for 5 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or with out rice as a stand alone dish.  

Now before you say YUCK! give it a try. Really!  Or if you are just too damn meat and potatoes whitebread boring, come to my house and I'll make it for you. I'll make a convert out of you. Yes I will.

Snowy Palms Resort