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.
- 300 grams firm tofu (see deciphering tofu labels)
- 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans drained and lightly pounded
- 4 cloves 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 teaspoon tapioca potato or corn starch dispersed in 1/4 c. of broth (or water if broth isn’t available)
- a drizzle of sesame seed oil
Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces.
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.