Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a religious studies class on sacred mountains in Asia and found myself watching a video called The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei about Tendai Monks at Mount Hiei that perform austerities including 1000-day marathons in order to attain Buddhahood. You may be wondering what connection this bit of trivia has to a post about food. As it happens, in the video there was a section on the monk’s vegetarian meals at the monastery. They begin their days with miso soup, delectable crispy fried tofu, and if I remember correctly, perfectly steamed white rice. As I looked at the crispy blocks of tofu on the screen, I was inspired. Previously I had planned to make a vegetarian version of Japanese-style gyuu don (beef bowl on rice) with mushrooms and onions, but it occurred to me that if I combined the idea of gyuu-don with fried tofu, I could make a Chinese-type saute with a delectable savory mushroom sauce. I stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way home from my class and picked up some firm tofu and a box of fresh crimini mushrooms. I used my favorite vegetable boullion cubes as a base for the sauce to reduce sodium and add flavor, and combined it with sake, maple syrup for sweetener, chili garlic sauce for a little heat, and sesame oil for earthy depth. The barest tipple of wheat-free tamari added saltiness, but if you don’t have any on hand, a little gourmet salt will work just as well. The meal was a success with the DH, and it perfectly satisfied my craving for delicious vegetarian fare. It just goes to show- you never know when inspiration for your next gluten-free masterpiece will strike next!
What’s the last thing you saw that inspired you to experiment in the kitchen? Share in the comments!
P.S. I know lately the Book of Yum has been focused more on “gluten-free adventures” than gluten-free recipes. But, I’m happy to tell you that I’m back on the recipe kick and we’ll have a new and improved focus on yummy, gluten-free recipes from now on! Enjoy. :)
Chinese Deep Fried Tofu with Mushrooms in dark sauce Recipe
1 package firm tofu
1/2 white or yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 pkg. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (from bullion or from scratch)
pickled red ginger strips
lg. quantity peanut oil or canola oil for deep frying
Slice tofu and cut into rectangles or cubes (to taste). Press between kitchen towels for 30 minutes. Dust with cornstarch. Heat 2-3 inches of peanut oil in deep fryer or small/medium pot (preferably one with tall sides) and deep fry tofu in small batches in the pot, turning occasionally with a all metal slotted spoon or tongs. When tofu is evenly golden brown remove it to a wire rack and let cool, continuing to deep fry remaining tofu.
Heat a wok or cast iron pan to medium or medium high and add a small amount of peanut or canola oil, swirling it around the pan. When it is hot, add a single layer of sliced mushrooms. Add salt and pepper and let mushrooms brown nicely on one side and then turn them. Do NOT move them around on the pan. After all mushrooms have been cooked (probably in multiple batches) remove them to a bowl and add a little more peanut or canola oil to the pan. Toss on your onion slices and let them brown slowly and start to caramelize. You may want to lower the heat slightly.
Meanwhile, combine your veg stock, sake, chili garlic sauce, tamari, sesame oil and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk and then whisk in cornstarch.
When onions seem to have softened and caramelized slightly, toss in the mushrooms and let them cook a few more minutes. Add your drained deep fried tofu to the pan. Whisk your sauce one more time and pour into the pan over the tofu, reserving a little sauce. Raise the heat slightly and let it start to bubble. If it hasn’t thickened enough, add a little more cornstarch to your reserved sauce, whisk it in and then add to your pan. Let the mixture bubble and thicken to your taste and then serve.
I served mine on short grain white rice (but brown would be good too) and sprinkled it with sesame seeds and pickled ginger strips.
It was soooo good. Just what I wanted.