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Spicy Tofu-Mushroom Stirfry
Every month or two, I get the urge to try a totally new vegan stirfry combination. These often involve tofu in some way, and as you know, tofu is a bit of a blank canvas that readily absorbs whatever it's cooked in. This time, I decided to try shiitake mushroom and pickled hot red chilies.
As usual, I had some learning to do. I've seen plain shiitake mushrooms at the grocery store, but they always looked a little wimpy. A quick search brought me to this excellent primer on dry shiitake mushrooms from Viet World Kitchen. I decided to follow her advice and make a trip to Chinatown for a package of dried shiitakes with deep fissures in the cap, which is apparently known as "flower mushroom" in Chinese or 花菇 (hua1 gu1). You can see those Chinese characters in this package that I found (with a little difficulty):
As you can see, the grooves in the caps are very pronounced:
Having tried them a few times, I have to say it's a bit of an acquired taste. The umami flavour is very strong. You might not be crazy about it if you haven't had it before. If you want to start with a different kind of shiitake or use less, I think you'll still get a good idea what its flavour has to offer your cooking. The people who love it, really love it. It's taken me a little while to warm up to it, but it's growing on me. Of course, I'm sure you can leave them out entirely and still have a lovely vegan stirfry. White mushrooms are more subtle, but they make still their presence felt in the sauce.
2 Tbl canola oil or other high heat, neutral oil
1 large onion, sliced into 1" square chunks
1/2 lb (227 g) white mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and quartered
2 shiitake mushrooms, soaked for 8 hours in a lot of water, then de-stemmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced with a little salt
350 g extra firm tofu, pressed dry
1/4 cup snowpeas, chopped
1-2 pickled hot red peppers, sliced in half
green onion slices for garnish
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tamari sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbl cornstarch
This is one of those dishes that comes together really quickly once you start stirfrying, so it makes sense to have everything prepped in little bowls before you heat up the wok.
For the tofu, I usually cut the block in half, then slice each half into thirds, with each third a little less than an inch thick.
I press the slices briefly between paper towels to get rid of as much moisture as possible (so that the sauce can penetrate during cooking).
Then I cut the slices into cubes and get them on a plate, ready to be added to the wok.
Once everything is prepped, heat the wok over medium-high heat, add the oil, let it heat up for a few seconds, then carefully add the onions.
Stirfry quickly but pause to let the onion brown a bit.
After a couple of minutes, add the white mushrooms and shiitakes. Continue stirfrying.
After 3-4 minutes, the mushrooms should have released most of their moisture. Add the garlic and stirfry for a couple minutes more.
Add the tofu cubes and stirfry for a minute or so.
Then add the snowpea pieces.
Add the hot chili slices.
Stir up the sauce, because the cornstarch tends to settle to the bottom, then add it.
Stirfry constantly until the sauce thickens and coats everything. Here's a before and after:
Immediately transfer to a serving dish, and garnish with green onion slices. I remove the spent chili halves before serving because they more than make their presence felt in the sauce. I like to serve this on rice, because it tempers the spice a little bit, but you can also just have it in a bowl for a low-carb yet satisfying meal. Hope you like!
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Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2016