Tofu has been around for almost 2000 years. The way that the Chinese travelled and migrated to a lot of places even during the olden days, it is likely that they brought the tofu culture with them which should explain why tofu has been an important ingredient in many Asian cuisines for centuries.
The West, however, did not know much about tofu until the first tofu factory was established in San Francisco in 1878 most probably to cater to the growing Chinese population in the region. It took another 80 years before the tofu made its appearance in American supermarkets.
Today, tofu is known throughout much of the world. And with the growing interest in meatless diets, it continues to gain popularity. And why not? Tofu is so versatile. It can acquire the taste of any ingredient it is mixed with. Tofu is also filling and rich in protein.
The tofu and black beans stir fry is an item found in most Chinese restaurants. Black beans, of course, refers to fermented black beans which gives this meatless dish its rich and deep flavors. Any firm vegetable is good for this dish. I recommend choosing a combination of vegetables that provides a good contrast in colors and textures.
- 1 firm tofu, about 300 grams (see deciphering tofu labels)
- 1 and ½ c. of vegetable cooking oil
- 1 tbsp. of fermented black beans, drained and lightly pounded
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large red bell pepper (green is okay but red looks better for this dish), diced
- 2 to 3 celery stalks, sliced
- a splash of rice wine
- black pepper
- a generous pinch of sugar
- 1 tsp. of tapioca, potato or corn starch dispersed in ¼ c. of broth (or water if broth isn’t available)
- a drizzle of sesame seed oil
- Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan, and fry the tofu until golden brown (see tips). Scoop out the the tofu (a kitchen spider is useful) and drain off the excess oil by placing the tofu in a strainer or a stack of paper towels.
- Pour off the cooking oil from the pan, leaving only about a tablespoonful. Heat the oil, and sauté the black beans and garlic until fragrant. Add the bell pepper and celery, and continue stir frying for about 30 seconds.
- Pour in the rice wine. Stir in the black pepper and sugar. Toss a few times then add the tofu.
- Pour in the starch solution. Adjust the seasonings. Stir and toss alternately over high heat. When the sauce is thick and clear, turn off the heat. Drizzle in the sesame seed oil and stir a few times.
- Transfer the tofu and black beans stir fry to a serving plate or bowl and serve hot.