Tofu

And In That Moment, We Were Infinite

Tofu & Tempeh Salad with Peanut Sauce 01
Peanut Sauce 02Tofu Tempeh Salad 4Tofu Tempeh Salad 5Tofu Tempeh Salad 7

I’ve been religiously following a documentary called Baby Boom, showing what happens in the largest maternity ward in Ile-de-France (where Paris is located), who counts 4,200 births every year or over 10 babies every day. 50 cameras are installed all over the hospital recording the midwives, couples’ journey from their arrival at the hospital until birth of their baby, including interviews with parents-to-be and occasionally, their families. I love the show so much, not only because it is insightful on how my delivery is going to be but also because I understand that every birth, every baby is special. I get that now. Everyone has their own story and the producers/editors of this documentary are able to capture the deeper side of each story, eg. how much more sensible the midwives are towards 16-yo mother-to-be, the different futur papa (those who can’t stop smoking, those who talk to the baby in the belly to come out, come out and play, those are more anxious than their partners, etc). At times the stories are funny (dad fainting as soon as baby laid on the mom’s chest, dad eating pizza in the birth room while mom struggles with contraction), at times heart wrenching (baby not breathing, new parents praying together after delivery). It’s a wonderful documentary and according to my spanish friend, similar program exists in Spain. So if you get a chance to see one, I’d recommend watching it.

Anyway, here’s a simple salad that I like to treat myself to. Made simpler by the ready made peanut sauce. The Indonesian Embassy in Paris has a canteen/mini mart that’s open to public, so you can go there to have lunch or just stock on ingredients like this peanut sauce, tempeh, candlenuts, sweet soy sauce, sambal ABC, Indomie etc. This is a big portion of salad for one, good to make when you want to clean out your fridge.

P.s. The prawn crakers is a must. You have not lived until you eat prawn crakers dipped in peanut sauce. (more…)

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A Woman of Her Own

Times Haiku

This year’s Eid, I don’t know why I kept on thinking about my maternal grandmother. She usually made ketupat (rice cake in woven palm leaves), chicken curry, mutton curry, sayur lodeh and few other side dishes like sambal telur goreng (spicy deep fried egg) to celebrate the day. Occasionally she would send them by courier to us in Jakarta while other times she would come to visit us. She never wanted to leave her home, deep in Sumatra island, even when she needed to be taken care of. She was always an independent woman, one who wore a bright red lipstick. I used to savor her lipstick mark on my cheeks until my mom reached over and rubbed it off.

I got a lipstick mark, I was kissed, I was loved and nothing else matters.

When she was still alive, she never could stay still. She would wake up at 4am to run (even when her knees couldn’t support her anymore). She drove a boxy 4WD Daihatsu Taft when a woman driving a car was unheard of. She had a pretty successful restaurant and later a hair salon during the time men still expect women to stay at home. Many said she was a sharp business woman, but her business acumen never was passed down to the following generations. It wasn’t up till the morning of my wedding day, I was clued in to the “family secret”. That she was a mother and a grandmother to us in every sense of the word, except in DNA. Quelle horreur! Imagine the kind of scandal this was back in 1950s.

Yeah, that’s my mama. A woman of her own.

So, in memory of my beloved grandmother, the one who always told me to study hard, to go further, who left her small town to check out my university, and who always cooked all our favorites whenever we visited her, here’s Lontong with Sayur Lodeh and Sambal Telur Goreng. I miss you mama, selamat Idul Fitri!

Sayur Lodeh
Sambal Telur Goreng
Telur Goreng LontongLontong Sayur Lodeh Telur Goreng

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The Heart Knows

Asian Tofu Burger

When I was in Japan May last year, one of the highlight of my trip was eating the Tofu Burger at Freshness Burger, a Japanese fast food chain. Ever since then, nothing taste as good. In my book, there was no comparison. It wasn’t until now where tofu is easily within grasp that I can “re-create” the dish.

I won’t even try claiming this is close to the real deal, because probably it isn’t. But I’ll just say this.. this burger fills the void whenever I look back with fond memory. I don’t have photos to show and tell, but whenever I make this, my heart knows.

Asian Tofu Burger

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After a Full Belly, All is Poetry

There is no sincerer love than a love of food.
– George Bernard Shaw

Spinach Tofu Gyoza 1Gyoza filling

H generally refuses to eat tofu, no matter how I prepare it. It has no taste, weird texture and doesn’t appeal to him at all. On the other hand, I grow up eating lots of tofu & tempeh. Back when I was a poor student, I ate lots of tofu and tempeh curry every day for a little over 1 sgd (under 1 usd) per meal. These days, with the growing of organic food (in France, this industry has a strong foothold), one can easily find marinated tofu in pesto sauce, olive, sun dried tomatoes etc. I don’t need to go to Chinatown or Korean markets to get my tofu, any bio stores carry several options: flavored vs natural, firm vs medium vs. soft tofu, even egg tofu.

I can’t say that he loves this spinach tofu gyoza, but he doesn’t mind eating it. For the first time, his digestion actually processes tofu. Grin.

Uncooked Gyoza

For those first timer handling Chinese wontons or Japanese gyoza, I would recommend starting with gyoza. The skin is thicker and more durable than wonton skin. It doesn’t turn limp even if you dab too much water. And I like how it doesn’t require a lot of oil to cook, that it’s not deep fried unlike Chinese wontons.

The gyoza dipping sauce is crucial in this dish. If you tend to skip the sauce, double or triple the quantity of the filling’s seasoning. (more…)

The Things We Do

Several friends of mine enjoy scouring the deepest part of Luanda searching for Asian ingredients like tofu, bean sprouts, xiao bai cai, chili padi, shallots, tapioca flour, etc. Several times a month they would get together and make a day trip to the far away Chinese farms, buying things by the kilo. When the location gets too dangerous, a driver or a maid would be sent with the shopping list.

The other day when they were taking orders, I decided to put my own order: bean sprouts and fried tofu. I’m particularly missing my childhood snack.

Tahu Isi Goreng 01
This fried stuffed tofu is an Indonesian snack typically sold by the street vendors. You can always find one such vendor by the school gate. Not the most hygienic nor the healthiest, certainly not the kind of food that children should be spending their pocket money on. But there’s something about defying your parents’ order behind their backs and a bag of hot, deep fried stuffed tofu.

Stuffed tofuTahu Isi Goreng 03
For this one, we use the pre-fried, brown skin, hollow and airy tofu. They often look wrinkled too. But they are excellent for stuffing or when dumped into a bowl of curry, they soak up all the excellent juices. If you can’t find this, firm hard tofu is a good substitute.

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Fah Fih Fooh Tofu

I know this doesn’t look appealing. But if you love tofu, please please give this recipe a shot. I don’t think I’ve ever tried tofu this good. It is coated with corn starch and deep fried, so it’s extremely crispy. The leeks and bell pepper (we used yellow, because it is sweeter) are sautéed in caramelized soya sauce, with garlic and ginger. No problem if you don’t like ginger, they are diced so tinily so they’ll burst in your mouth subtlely. In short, this was excellent.

A has 1 box tofu (about 370 gr) that we experimented with two ways of cooking. So pardon the quantity, feel free to adjust anyway you like.

FRIED TOFU IN CARAMELIZED SOYA SAUCE WITH LEEKS AND YELLOW BELL PEPPER
(adapted from Veggie Belly)
serve 2, as side dish

half box tofu (abt180 gr), cubed – we had 9 cubes
half yellow bell pepper, diced
8 slices (rings) of leeks, washed
1-cm ginger, diced
1 medium garlic clove, diced

tofu batter
2 tbsp maizena (corn starch)
pinch of salt
pinch of fresh grounded black pepper

Caramel sauce
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce – we accidentally used dark soy sauce, hence pardon the colour
pinch brown sugar

  • Wrap the tofu with paper towel and gentle press to remove as much water as possible. Then coat the tofu with the batter.
  • In a skillet, heat up some oil about 1-cm deep. Carefully drop the tofu into the skillet and fry till all sides are brown and crispy. Set aside.
  • In another skillet, heat up some oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and when it has softened a little, add in the ginger, garlic and yellow bell pepper. Cook another 1-2 mins, before adding the caramel sauce. Stir.
  • Switch off the fire and add back the fried tofu. Toss well till all tofu has been coated with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Note: I prefer yellow bell pepper (instead of the green ones) because I think it’s sweeter and not as bitter.