My wife Jan has her college friends staying over the weekend. Her friends come with a long list of food restrictions—no wheat, rye, barley, tomatoes, citrus, or lactose—so it is quite the challenge. Japanese cuisine tends to have few of the ingredients I needed to avoid. I decided I would make miso soup, sushi, and a selection of Japanese pickles—cabbage and mixed vegetables.
Tag Archives: tofu
The best tofu in San Jose is made at San Jose Tofu on Jackson St. Every day, except Sunday, the Tofu man, Chester Nozaki, makes a batch of fresh tofu. If you want to buy some on Saturday go early, because they sell out around noon. There is nothing like the flavor and texture of super fresh tofu.
It is a constant struggle to keep week day meals interesting. My mother, Claudia, was a strict budgeter; with 5 kids to feed she had to be. However, the result of this budgeting was that frequently you could tell what day it was by what was on the table. I had the same problem when I worked off shore, “If it is Tuesday it must be T-bone steaks.” No matter how good the food is, it gets boring if it is predictable.
Mapo Doufu is Jan’s favorite dish. She also prefers it the traditional way that Mao Zedong liked it, made with “stinky tofu.” Mapo Doufu actually takes days to make it properly, because first you need to let the tofu go “bad.” Fortunately she also likes it with made with fresh tofu, which is what I will be doing today.
I would not have anyone believe that every dish I make is a grand success. The recipe I am posting was successful, but the variation pictured was less so. One of the down sides of constantly tinkering with recipes is that not every change works. While these failures are rarely inedible (one day I may tell the story of brine turkey) they are not always popular with my family. If you are lucky your family will tell you when something doesn’t work. Yes, I get “pouty” when they say that they didn’t like something, but that is better than making the same mistake twice thinking they loved whatever it was you had made.
This is my first recipe ever to have a name. I first made this soup when Miriam was a small child. More than once she would toddle up and ask for “Papa’s fine soup” for dinner.
Eilene has been studying animal cruelty and how animals are used in the American food chain in her sociology class. As a result, she has wanted a lot of vegetarian meals lately. I could not spot anything online that really appealed to me. Most of the dishes were variations of noodles in sauce or salads. I wanted something different.
Fun question: I was watching A Taste of History and I found out a bit of American history.
Who introduced tofu to America?
(hint: It was not Thomas Jefferson. Answer below the recipe.)
This dish is not what I went to the store to prepare. As I was sitting and thinking about dinner I remembered the stir-fried lettuce stem I was served in Chengdu. When I got to Lion Market, I found that they did not have it. I had seen it there before, so I guess it simply is not in season. What was in season was Chinese broccoli (gai-lan in Mandarin). What I normally do with this vegetable is make Spice Chicken and Noodles, but that is a real production number and takes hours to prepare. I wanted something simpler for a week day meal.
Miso soup is an almost daily staple of a Japanese diet. In the West many soups start with a base of chicken broth. In Japanese most soups start with dashi. The dried soup base, Hon Dashi, is sold in most supermarkets (at least on the West Cost). I have never been sure how much to use so I think I have been using too little, because if there are instructions on the bottle they are all in Japanese. One of the websites I was on while researching this meal was recommending 1 tsp. of Hon Dashi per cup of water. Since the bottles only contain about three tablespoons, it would take almost a whole bottle to make a soup for the family. See Karl’s Yosenabe for instructions on making it from scratch.