The easiest way to cook tofu is to quickly blanch it, then season with salt and sesame oil and fold in a handful of finely chopped scallions or fresh herbs. This preparation, called liangban, is minimal and yet divinely tasty. My favorite version of this dish is with toon (xiangchun), a savory, onion-garlicky leaf common in southern China, and after some tinkering, I found that the combination of basil and garlic has a similar aroma that’s just as intoxicatingly fragrant, flecking the creamy tofu cubes like a pesto. I probably make this three or four times a week, it’s that good.
This is it. My favorite dish in the world and the grandmother of Sichuan cuisine. Translated literally as “pockmarked grandmother’s tofu,” its totally apocryphal origin story is identical to a half dozen other food origin stories: it starts with hungry crowds and a cook with few ingredients but plenty of creativity. The result is an inexpensive stew that uses simple ingredients—soft tofu, ground meat (traditionally beef, but frequently pork), fermented chile bean paste, a handful of Sichuan peppercorns, and plenty of red-hot chile oil—to create simple, soul-satisfying fare.
Freezing tofu allows the moisture inside the tofu to expand, and thawing it ensures that those spaces remain expanded. This results in a texture that’s more spongy and amenable to marinade than tofu that is just pressed. Freezing-then-thawing firm or extra firm tofu, coating it, and frying it results in a chewy, dense texture not unlike a chicken nugget. Consider this recipe a basic formula, but feel free to experiment with different marinades and sauces.
I don’t have a restaurant, but if I did, this would be on my “specials” board because it’s delicious and I’d want you to try it. This is a rogue version of the Korean braised tofu called dubu jorim. The rogue ingredient is pear, which adds lovely body and a sweetness to the dish. This dish goes well with steamed broccoli and rice.
Recipe introduction by Sally Swift for our Weeknight Kitchen newsletter. Sign up to get wonderful new recipes direct to your inbox every Wednesday.
This dish is mostly vegetables with a bit of noodles, and that is all thanks to the “vegetable noodles” made with the julienne peeler.
Soba noodles are classically made with 100 percent buckwheat flour, and those are the ones I seek out whenever possible.
Fresh green beans are almost sweet, so I balance them with a hint of bitterness from radicchio leaves.
This is a perfect catch-all for your summertime produce surplus. Use it as a template: make the tofu and the dressing, and add or subtract any type of sweet and crunchy vegetables you prefer.