|Stewed Chinese leaves with tofu|
Opened the blinds this morning, autumn has spread the whole yard, yellow and red leaves are covering the whole walls and the grass — how beautiful! Although there was no sun, the red, yellow, orange and green (yes, there is still a little green colour left) colour are composing a beautiful autumn concert. I stayed by the window watching for a very long time, just did not want to move…
The only sadness is that after changing back from summer time, the day light time is getting shorter, quite sudden — I thought I have prepared for the night arriving early, but still sudden, a little bit panic rose up from deep down of my heart. — Another autumn, another winter, another Christmas, another year…
Autumn Chinese leaves
It is said that autumn is a harvest season, many fruits and vegetables are on the markets now. My mom told me on the phone that she was planning to buy autumn vegetables for storing them up for the coming winter. Although this is no longer a necessary thing to do in northeast China (there will still be millions types of vegetables available in the markets), my mom said that she still wanted to keep the old traditions; however, she would buy much much less than she used to many years ago- just a ‘symbolic’ buying.
And one type of vegetables she must buy is Bai cai / Chinese leaves.
Autumn Chinese leaves in northeast China are different to the ones sold here in England. As I mentioned in the previous post, they are more matured, the leaves are much bigger, thicker, and the outer leaves are less juicy, which makes a great stew dish. It is one of the ‘must’ have autumn seasonal recipes.
Stewing Chinese Leaves
Stewed Chinese leaves with tofu is a most traditional and popular home-cooking dish in Northeast China in autumn. It is definitely not served in fancy restaurants, as it is usually considered to be a very ‘basic’ dish. I cooked it the other day, for celebrating the autumn, for easing my deep nostalgia, and for a super healthy energy boost! :))
It is very simple to make. The method of cooking is called ‘dun’ in Chinese (often translated as ‘stew’ in English). This cooking method normally implies stir-frying the ingredients first, and then add water and keep on ‘boiling’ for some more time. A friend’s mother recently moved to my hometown, she talked to me about a ‘dun’ dish. She said that she particularly loved to try out all the ‘dun’ dishes, as they are a specialty of Northeastern provinces, difficult to find anywhere else in China. — I almost forgot about how traditional and how regional this method is.
This ‘stewed Chinese leaves with tofu’ is one of the four most famous autumn / winter ‘Dun’ dishes in northeast China. My grandma and my mom used to cook it with beef, not a lot of beef in the dish though, only a little bit, as they would say, ‘just for lending some flavor’. But I think I still prefer the the ‘clear’ and light flavor, of the vegetarian option. :))
The recipe: Stewed Chinese Leaves with Tofu
Here you go how I made it.
Chinese leaves (the outer parts are better), tofu (northern tofu)
Garlic, ginger, oil, salt, light soy sauce, five spice powder (optional), MSG/vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence (optional)
1) Chop tofu into small cubes, and Chinese leaves into small pieces.
2) Chop around 3 garlic gloves and a good piece of ginger into slices.
1) Fry tofu in the oil to make it ‘firmer’ and easy to ‘absorb’ the sauce later, however, it is not totally necessary, you can skip it, especially if you use firmer tofu.
2) In a heated wok, pour in around 3 tablespoons of oil.
3) When the oil is hot enough, add in chopped garlic and ginger. Stir fry until the smell of the garlic and ginger comes out.
4) Add in prepared tofu and chopped Chinese leaves pieces, stir fry well.
5) Add in around 1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder.
6) Keep on stir frying until Chinese leaves gets ‘soft’.
7) Pour in water or vegetable stock mixed water, just cover the surface of the tofu and Chinese leaves.
8) Add in 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce.
9) Turn down the fire to low, cover the lid, let it keep on cooking for further 10-15 minutes.
Before removing it to the plate, add in 2 teaspoons of MSG/vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence (optional). —
It is normally simple served with boiled rice, but with Chinese bread, bing, are all good combinations.