If you're new to stir-frying tofu, start with this marvelous marriage of land and sea. It is easy and the ingredients are readily available. The results showcase how tofu can absorb the flavors of its companion ingredients while becoming velvety. Include the peas for bright color and a little sweetness. The shrimp shell stock gives the dish a real seafood taste, tester Johanna Nevitt remarked.
14 to 16 ounces medium or medium-firm tofu
About 3 cups very hot or just-boiled water
8 ounces medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 green onion, white and green parts, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
1/2 cup shrimp shell stock (see Note)
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed, or 3 tablespoons fresh shelled peas, optional
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water and 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Put them into a bowl and add the hot water to cover. Set aside.
2. Put the shrimp in a colander. Toss with about 1/2 teaspoon salt, then rinse well. Drain and then blot dry with paper towels. Cut the shrimp crosswise into 1/2-inch nuggets. Set aside near the stove, along with the ginger and green onion.
3. For the sauce, combine 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar, rice wine, and soy sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside near the shrimp. Have the peas and stock nearby too, as the first part of this stir-fry comes together quickly. Also, drain the tofu in a strainer or colander and put it near the stove.
4. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the ginger and green onion, stirring a few times to aromatize them. Add the shrimp, stir several times to combine, and then pour in the sauce. When the shrimp starts turning pink, add the stock, and then the tofu and peas. Gently stir to combine the ingredients. When things start bubbling, lower the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer. Cover and cook, adjusting the heat as needed, for 3 minutes. Occasionally uncover and shake the pan a bit to ensure even cooking.
5. Uncover, give the cornstarch mixture one last stir, then pour it in. Gently stir and fold until the sauce has thickened, about 30 seconds. Pour into a shallow serving bowl, sprinkle with some white pepper, and serve hot.
Note: For the shrimp shell stock, put the reserved shells in a small saucepan and add 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Strain through a cloth or paper towel-lined mesh strainer. Discard the shells. Makes a generous 1/2 cup.
From Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook it at Home by Andrea Nguyen (Ten Speed Press, 2012). Text and location photography copyright © 2012 by Andrea Quynhgiao Nguyen. Studio photography copyright © 2012 by Maren Caruso. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Ten Speed Press.
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