Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tofu Stir Fry with Kale, Mushrooms, and Green Onions

~20 min

It is possible I eat too much Asian food. Probably because it is so delicious and you can make it with just about anything leftover in your fridge. However the key to a good stir fry is to properly cook the vegetables.

  • Firm Tofu. One package holds about 3 servings
  • 4 small Mushrooms per person
  • Two leaves of Kale per person (including chopped stems)
  • One Green Onion per person
  • one clove of garlic per person
  • sesame seeds as desired
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • chili powder as desired about teaspoon a person
  • rice vinegar (optional)
Begin by slicing the tofu into small sections about 1/4 inch thick , I usually cut the pieces into 1/2in squares. This ensures the tofu will cook thoroughly inside as well as outside. Soak the tofu in a bit of soy sauce, chili powder and a teaspoon of vinegar per package of tofu. Heat a bit of sesame oil to medium heat in a LARGE skillet or wok (You will have a lot of vegetables so make sure they fit). Once the oil is hot, add the tofu (but not the sauce) and make sure it is all lying flat on the skillet surface. After about 5 min the tofu will be browned. Then each piece needs to be flipped over. I like to use tongs or chopsticks.
It is done when it looks like this:

Remove tofu from skillet, and add a bit more sesame oil. Once hot, add the vegetables. Keep in mind you can use any vegetables or greens you want as long as they all are cut in such a way that they will cook at the same speed.
Stir them all around to evenly coat them oil. Let them sit for a full minute to brown them a bit. Now add the minced garlic, sesame seeds, and chili powder. Stir around and repeat this until the vegetables have cooked for about 7-10  minutes (at this point they should still be crunchy). Now turn up the heat to medium high and cook for about two minutes until the vegetables are properly browned. You will have to stir a bit more at the higher heat, but don't do it continuously or the vegetables won't brown.

When done, remove the vegetables and while still hot add a teaspoon of premixed of soy sauce and vinegar mixture to each serving.

It takes a bit of practice to get the timing right. The idea is to cook the vegetables until they are nearly done and turn up the heat for a few minutes to brown and finish them. Properly stir-fried vegetables are slightly crunchy (not overcooked) and browned.

Serve with rice or noodles. 

 Stir fry is very versatile because you can make it with almost any kind of vegetable. It is better to avoid watery vegetables however, because they will prevent the other vegetables from browning. If you really want to you could probably soak the watery vegetables with salt beforehand which will help draw out their moisture. Make sure to pat them dry before cooking. Keep in mind though, that this will make them quite salty so you probably shouldn't add soy sauce.

For a list of stir-fry vegetable ideas visit my post on Nabemono.

Also a note on soy sauce:

Soy is traditionally made by fermenting soy beans for several months until proper taste is obtained. The bacteria used in the process are beneficial to us, similar to those in yogurt. Because of the length of this process, most commercial soy sauces sold in grocery stores are chemically made. They lack the nutritional benefits of traditionally fermented sauces. Properly fermented foods are extremely beneficial for human health and are very limited in typical American diets. I highly recommend incorporating foods with beneficial bacteria into your diet for optimal health. The nourishing gourmet has a nice post about this topic and brand recommendations. Other sources of beneficial bacteria include: raw milk, yogurt, kombucha, miso, tempeh, and anything lacto-fermented. Make sure to properly inspect labels for inclusion of live bacterial cultures. Not all of these commercially sold products contain live cultures (very sneaky)! These can be killed in the pasteurization process that is used to extend the shelf life of products.

I recently purchased a pasteurized but naturally fermented organic soy sauce myself. I really enjoyed the taste. It was less salty than regular soy sauce and mildly sweet. The taste was much more complex than the chemically produced version. Very much worth it!