I don’t often cook other people’s recipes, at least not exactly as written. I like to get inspiration from cookbooks and other people’s blogs and then go off and do my own thing, incorporating the techniques that have worked well for me in the past. But when I saw the recipe for Peng’s Home-Style Bean Curd on Barbara Fisher’s Tigers and Strawberries, I just knew I had to make it exactly—well, almost—as written.
Barbara is a blogger and cook who inspires confidence; she has attended culinary school, worked in restaurants, and taught cooking classes. Her particular love and specialty is Chinese cooking, and she writes about it in clear, evocative language that somehow summons up the taste of the food as she guides you through the steps in preparing it. Reading the recipe for Home-Style Bean Curd, I could imagine exactly how it would taste, full of the pungency and saltiness of fermented black beans.
And I wasn’t disappointed. One bite of this dish transported me back to a little Chinese restaurant back in South Carolina that D and I loved, instantly conjuring up its dark, candle-lit booths and strange door chime that chirped “Thanks for coming” whenever the door opened.
From the outside, it looked like nothing special, one Asian restaurant among the many that graced the strip malls of that neighborhood, but once inside, visitors were greeted with tantalizing aromas and a diverse menu that included a whole host of vegetarian dishes. It’s amazing how many memories a taste can bring back; I didn’t realize how much I missed that place until this tofu dish reminded me.
Of course I made a few changes to the recipe, but Barbara had already suggested the main one, that vegetarians replace the pork with dried shiitake mushrooms. And though I trust Barbara when she asserts that it’s best with deep-fried tofu, I hope you’ll trust me when I say that baked tofu worked wonderfully for me. (I’m sorry, Barbara; I just can’t bring myself to fry anything!)
Finally, I didn’t have fresh red chiles, so I substituted dried red pepper flakes (heresy, I’m sure). Next time I make this—which will be soon because I’ve been craving it ever since we ate it—I’ll make sure I have fresh peppers on-hand. Thanks, Barbara, for a wonderful dish!
Home-Style Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms
- 16 ounces extra firm tofu drained
- soy sauce
- 1 cup dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh finely minced garlic about 3 cloves
- 3 tablespoons fermented black beans (Douchi) (see notes)
- 1/2 red bell pepper cut into thin strips
- 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
- 3 scallions green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional but important for flavor)
- Preheat oven to 425F. Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then slice each half into approximately 8 slices about 1/2-inch thick. Brush each slice with soy sauce on both sides and place on a baking sheet. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes, and then turn over and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- While the tofu is baking, pour the hot water over the sliced shiitake mushrooms. (If you don’t have sliced mushrooms, use whole ones and slice after rehydrating.) Allow them to soak until soft. Leave the mushrooms in the soaking liquid and set aside until needed.
- Spray a wok or large non-stick skillet with a little canola oil and place over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, black beans, and red pepper, and stir-fry for about 1 minute. (See note below.) Add the red pepper strips and cook for another minute. Stir in the mushrooms, along with their soaking liquid, and add the tofu and soy sauce. Let simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors. Then stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Add the sliced green onions and sesame oil and serve immediately over rice. Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional info is approximate.
Susan VoisinAugust 18, 2009 at 11:53 am
Here are the older comments that were lost when the blog was moved:
Your food looks absolutely WONDERFUL! You are definitely something to aspire to!
6:20 PM, August 18, 2007
I am glad you liked this recipe enough to try it at home, Susan. It is a favorite, and now that it is hot outside, I have been making the vegan version with the mushrooms myself. (Great photos, btw!)
As for using chile flakes–they work fine. If you can get Tien Tsin chiles from Penzey’s they have an authentic Sichuan flavor and heat that I think you will like. You can just crumble them up into flakes, or use them whole or cut up. Great stuff.
Oh, and I loved the Korean baby eggplant recipe, too!
12:02 AM, August 19, 2007
Lovely images and recipe, Susan! Will be adding this to my “recipes to try” list!
8:38 AM, August 19, 2007
Dr. Melissa West, Lifestyle Coach said…
Wow! This looks delish! I am definitely going to bookmark this recipe to try. Do you think you could use black bean sauce in place of the fermented black beans? (I’ve not seen these in my wanders)
7:28 PM, August 19, 2007
Melissa, you can use black bean sauce, but you may need to adjust the amount. The big difference is that the sauce has added flavors so the dish won’t taste exactly the same as with the beans themselves.
10:07 PM, August 19, 2007
its a treat for your eyes…I love chinese food!
8:09 AM, August 20, 2007
What a beautiful looking dish!!
9:19 AM, August 20, 2007
Where exactly does one find fermented black beans? Can’t say that I’ve ever seen them, either!
10:21 AM, August 22, 2007
Lena, you have to go to an Asian grocery store to find them. I can usually find black bean paste in the supermarket, but for just the beans I have to go to an Asian market.
10:26 AM, August 22, 2007
I have to restock my black bean sauce to make this… it looks fantastic!
10:44 AM, August 22, 2007
Just wanted to pop in and say that I love the new layout. And from your pic, it seems as though you and E look quite alike.
11:03 AM, August 22, 2007
Karina Allrich said…
Susan – I LOVE your new design. It’s fresh and beautiful! Congrats. 🙂 (And you look lovely!)
3:28 PM, August 22, 2007
Cassie Young said…
I’ve already commented here, Susan, but wanted to send another little note to let you know that I, too, am really liking FFVK’s new look! Nice work! 🙂
7:04 PM, August 22, 2007
Wow, Susan, this new layout is great! I appreciate all the work you put into your blog.
7:31 PM, August 22, 2007
Thanks so much, everybody! I’ve been so absorbed in working on the blog design that I haven’t been cooking much for the past few days. Now that all the bugs are out of the template redesign (knock on wood), I’ll have more time to spend in the kitchen.
7:57 PM, August 22, 2007
I really like the new design!! Your title photo is beautiful and it’s so nice to put a face to all these amazing recipes!!
9:17 AM, August 23, 2007
i made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! (wonderfully, incredibly delicious!)
i made three small changes to the recipe: i used black bean sauce, because i had it on hand and wanted to avoid a trip to the store; i used more pepper than called for, as i wanted more heat than it had (although my red pepper flakes are getting a bit past their prime, which is probably the reason); and i used more bell pepper than called for, because i’m up to my ears in them right now. honestly, though, i think it could take even more veggies if one wanted ’em; they would go very well with the sauce and tofu, and make it an even healthier meal.
verdict: awesome. another great recipe! (my significant other’s reaction was–and i quote–“A++! Would request again!… There are leftovers, right?” which, i take it, means he liked it.)
8:27 PM, August 26, 2007
Susan, this is a must-try! Yesterday when I visited our very large oriental market in Kansas City, I had trouble locating the fermented black beans. How does the label look or what do I look for? Limited English there is sometimes a challenge. I get almost all of my favorite recipes from your site–thank you so much for inspiring and feeding your cheering crowds of fans.
9:38 AM, November 07, 2007
Alandra, here’s a link to a bag of fermented black beans thatyou might find in an Asian market. You can also find them in jars, with oil and some other ingredients, but the kind in the bag are in their pure state. I hope you’ll be able to find them (perhaps you could print out the photo and take it with you?) They’re really worth the trouble.
4:25 PM, November 07, 2007
Hey, I would just like to also say that this recipe is amazing! I couldn’t find the fermented black beans, so I used Whole Foods 365 organic spicy black beans. Probably not as flavorful as the original recipe would have been, but still really delicious. I’ll definitely make this recipe again.
6:02 PM, November 12, 2007
If you’re making this recipe you absolutely MUST find the fermented black beans. Go to any Asian market and ask, they’ll help you. It adds such an amazing flavor, I think I’ve made this two times in the past month since I found the recipe. Tonight might be the third time…… Yum!
3:13 PM, July 08, 2008
My boy and I made this recipe on Friday night but without the black beans…it was absolutely delicious!
This is my absolute favourite blog and congrats on your third wonderful year – yay for Susan!!!
3:17 PM, January 12, 2009
I`ve made this a few times already for my omni-parents, my half-veg sister and of course myself, and I just have to say that each time we had it was because my meat-eating mother requested it above all other recipes i`ve made. On top of that, she had only tried tofu a couple of times (and didn`t like it) before I started going vegan a few months ago. This recipe is definitely a keeper! (:
caterinaMay 3, 2010 at 4:51 am
this looks really delicious! I would like to make it but I don’t have fermented black beans: could I use red miso insted? If so, how much do you suggest using?
SusanVMay 3, 2010 at 8:02 am
The flavor of red miso is different than fermented black beans, but it could be tasty. I would just start off with a little–a teaspoon or two–added near the end and add more to taste. You can always add more but you can’t add less!
AndrewNovember 2, 2010 at 10:34 pm
I made this two weeks ago and it was amazing! I will definitely make it again — I love the texture and taste the dried shitakes add and the sauce is delicious.
AngieJanuary 5, 2018 at 2:28 pm
Hi, Susan! I just wondered what I’m missing from the “see notes below” bit referenced in the recipe. I’ve never worked with the fermented beans before, and am wondering what special instructions they may have. Thanks!
Susan VoisinJanuary 5, 2018 at 3:09 pm
Sorry about that! The notes must have gotten cut off in a recent update. Here’s what was there before:
I used fermented black beans that were packed in oil and pressed them lightly to remove as much of the oil as possible. If you are using the type of fermented black beans that are packed dry, you may want to lightly crush them before adding them to the skillet. Also, adding a little water or oil to the skillet will make stir-frying them with the garlic easier.
Jessica S.April 30, 2019 at 7:44 pm
I liked this, thanks for the recipe. My 15 year old actually ate it AND said something nice about it (that hardly ever happens). I added some sliced waterchestnuts and baby carrots and had to add a bit more water.