Monday, September 26, 2016

Tofu stuffed with pork and foraged wild mushrooms. Gluten-free optional.

These adorable little cubes of steamed tofu are my riff on a traditional Hakka Chinese dish, where they are traditionally stuffed with pork and salt-cured fish. I can never really get into salt-cured fish, so I've substituted foraged mushrooms.

Hakka cuisine isn't well represented in the US, but the Hakka people are one of the important ethnic groups in China. They also have an international presence, primarily in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and some of their food has melded into those cultures. So when you have Taiwanese cuisine in the US, it may have Hakka origins or influences.

This dish can be made with nearly any wild, foraged mushroom, but for preference, I'd use hen of the woods, any of the Agaricus, wine-caps, or dryad's saddle.

Using store-bought mushrooms? I recommend mushrooms traditionally used in Asian cuisine: shiitake, enoki, or hen of the woods. 

White button mushrooms or cremini would also be good.

Also note, this dish can easily be made vegan, remove the pork, and triple the amount of mushrooms. 

Reconstituting your mushrooms

If you're using fresh mushrooms, skip this portion.

Dried mushrooms are like sponges, they really absorb a lot of the flavor of what you reconstitute them in. So, while plain water is always an option, you'll generally get a better result if you use a flavor that  blends well with both the flavor of the mushroom, and of the dish you're preparing. Depending on the kind of mushroom and the dish being created, cream, milk, different wines, soy sauce, fish sauce, various vinegars, or infused waters are popular. 

For wine-caps, I nearly always reconstitute in red wine. The flavor of the mushroom with a red blend or a pinot noir is just so natural, and it always comes out well. However, for this dish, I didn't want the red wine flavor to conflict with the Asian spices of the meal; but I also felt that straight soy sauce would overpower the mushroom's natural flavor. I decided to try using an infused water instead.
  1. 3/4 cup dried wine-cap mushrooms
  2. 1 1/2 cups water
  3. A couple of thin slices of fresh ginger
  4. 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  5. 1 tbs. soy sauce (use gluten-free if desired)
  6. 1 tbs. sesame oil
  7. 1 tbs. black vinegar (or rice vinegar)
Heat water to low simmer over medium heat. Using the smallest pieces of dried mushroom (you can break them roughly in your hands as well), add everything to the water, and stir till the mushrooms sink. Low simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the mushrooms, reserving a small amount of the liquid.

Look at all that tasty filling. This is for a double batch.

Pork & Mushroom Stuffed Tofu

Serves 2-3 as a main course. Sauce recipe below.

Reconstituted mushrooms, or 1 cup fresh mushrooms, minced
1/4 cup ground pork
1 package of extra firm tofu
1 tbs. freshly grated ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbs. soy sauce, gluten free optional
2 tbs. black vinegar or rice vinegar
3 tbs. water, or use the liquid from the reconstituted mushrooms
Something to steam on
  1. Start by draining the tofu. I use a couple of twice-folded paper towels on a plate, lay the tofu brick on top. Take another couple of twice-folded paper towels and lay on top of the tofu. Cover with another plate, and weight down. (A can of veggies or soup is great for this) It's a smart move to start this before you mince the garlic, or grate the ginger. 
  2. Start the water boiling below your steamer basket. I probably used about 4 cups of water.
  3. When your tofu is fairly drained, slice it half-way along the height. This will give you two pieces that are the full length and width of the tofu, but only about 3/4 inch thick.  
  4. Slice those halves length wise, then into three equal pieces. All told you should have 12 pieces, each about 1 1/2" x 2", and about 3/4" thick.
  5. Using a paring knife, cut a small square in each tofu block. Leave about 1/4 inch on all sides. Use a spoon to scoop out the middle, leaving again, about 1/4" from the bottom. 
  6. Crumble the tofu middles with your fingers.
  7. Mix pork, tofu middles, grated ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and water or mushroom liquid into a bowl. 
  8. Generously scoop the filling into the tofu blocks. Mound it up there!
  9. You'll need smoothing in your steamer basket to keep your tofu from sticking. Cabbage is traditional, but I had some way-past-it's prime lettuce in the fridge, and I used that. 
  10. Working in batches (you don't want your cubes to touch each other), steam for about 10-12 minutes. Remove with tongs and serve with sauce. 

Spicy Sweet Glaze

Feel free to omit the garlic Sriracha if you don't like spicy. Or increase it if you like very spicy!

2 tbs. soy sauce, gluten free optional
1/4 cup oyster sauce, 
or 1/4 cup hoisin for vegan, 
or 1/4 cup tamarind paste + 1/2 tsp brown sugar for gluten free and vegan.  
1 tsp. garlic sriracha, more or less to taste 

Heat all ingredients together until a light simmer. Remove from heat and spoon over stuffed tofu.  

I know this all seems like a lot of steps, but they are all very easy and come together rather quickly. If you use fresh mushrooms, it's even faster.

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