Saturday, April 24, 2010

Craving and Missing

If you asked me what the one thing I crave most is, it would probably be coffee. We've had this discussion before. My love for coffee turned into an unhealthy addiction so now I am forced to be disciplined. Oh well, such is life. My other cravings? Probably peanut butter (also aforementioned), chocolate, ice-cream .. We could be here for days. But recently, I've been craving something quite unusual and I've realized that it's because I miss something, or in this case, someone: my parents.

Every year, my retired parents take a 2-month holiday to east and south-east Asia, and while my father's weekly emails containing updates about what he ate, what my mother is doing and the random things that they are seeing are quite entertaining, I think it's his cooking that I miss. My father worked the midnight shift before he retired. He told us once that after his seniority reached a certain level, that his supervisors offered him a chance to switch to days. He promptly declined, not because he loved working midnight-8 and then having to adjust his body on the weekends, but because if he did, he figured he wouldn't have time to cook dinner for us. Eating dinner together was a big deal in our family, so big that it became a bit annoying when we grew up and our lives started changing, and sometimes because it was always the same kind of food (Chinese) and the same kind of flavours (curry, soy sauce, sesame seed oil) that were on the table. But somehow, we managed -- quite well if I may say so.

When I moved out of the family home, one the most exciting parts about it was being able to cook new things and experiment with flavours that never made it to our family dinner table (you see, between my father and my grandmother, few other people get to spend time the kitchen!). I think my mom was too, because within the first week of being in my new place, she requested that I make her shepherd's pie and chicken pot pie. But we're getting off topic. What does this have to do with my cravings?

Well, I'm dancing around the answer because I know you'll judge me, but I beg you not to. I was craving tofu. Haha, very funny, there. Tofu, ie. soy bean curd. Not something that normal people crave right? Well, at the family table, there was always tofu. It was cooked into curries, steamed with fish, mixed with a spicy meat sauce, chopped up in an egg salad or just served cold, right out of the container and drizzled with sesame seed oil and soy sauce. I realized that since moving out, I haven't cooked with tofu, and since my parents left on their trip, I haven't eaten tofu. So the other night, I made a meal that included marinated tofu, veggies and Chinese noodles. The noodles and veggies are cooked simply with curry paste, and the marinated tofu is added on top, cold. The idea to marinate tofu is actually my sister's. She did it years ago when my parents were on their yearly trip and she could snag some time in the kitchen, and I loved it instantly. I haven't made it since then, but it was the first tofu dish I thought of when my cravings hit. Simple to make, with the comforting flavours of childhood dinners, the cool marinated tofu was a perfect match to the steamy, spicy, crunchy noodles and veg. I used an Asian wheat noodle flavoured with spinach that cooked up in just four minutes, so not only was it simple, but it was quick. It really hit the spot. So go make it! Forget about all the tofu stereotypes and just make it! You can thank me after. :)

Marinated Tofu with Noodles and Veggies
(Warning: Some of the condiment measurements are guessed. Adjust to your taste :)

1 pkg of firm or extra firm tofu
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon of dark soy
1 teaspoon of light soy
a few grinds of black pepper

2 portions (about 3 oz or 85 grams) of Asian noodles (Pasta would be great too. Just be careful to adjust to cooking time.)
1/2 a shallot diced
a bit of ginger, grated
3 teaspoons of curry paste*
1 cup of chopped red cabbage
2 cups of chopped spinach
3/4 cup of water of vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of dark soy

1. Chop up the tofu as nicely as you can and put it in a large bowl. Drizzle over the sesame seed oil, soy sauces and pepper and mix gently. Taste and add more stuff if you'd like. Put the tofu in the fridge and let it get happy.

2. Put your water for the noodles on and start chopping up your vegetables.

3. In a pan, saute the ginger and shallots for about a minute. Add the curry paste and stir to dissolve. Add the cabbage and stock/water, reserving about 1/4 cup and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is almost tender and the stock has reduced a bit.
(While the cabbage is cooking put the noodles in the water to cook.)

4. Add the spinach and the rest of the stock/water and cook until the spinach is wilted (about a minute or so). Add your noodles and soy and give it a good toss. Cook for another minute or so to let the stock and curry and soy get a all acquainted and almost syrupy.

5. Serve topped with the cold, marinated tofu and a little sprinkle of black sesame seeds.

6. Deny that you ever craved tofu!

*The next day, I made the same dish, but instead of the curry paste (which was too intense for my dear one) I used 2 teaspoons of dark soy, one teaspoon of light soy, some lime zest and a squeeze of lime juice. Different, but equally delicious.


  1. OMG. I get tofu cravings too!!! I think you've just kick-started one. But I'm thinking of some fried but not greasy tofu - crispy on the outside, soft on the inside... with lots of gai lan and maybe some mushrooms. Hot sauce or Chinese mustard for dipping. Mmmmm.....

  2. mmmmmmmmmm i love crispy tofu! i think it's time for an adventure to congee wong!