滷蘿蔔豆腐 Braised Radish and Tofu
Braised tofu and radish – a very simple yet comforting dish that can be served as a side dish. From a Chinese regimen’s point of view, we have a saying “冬吃蘿蔔夏吃薑，不需醫生開藥方 (eat radish in winter, ginger in summer; you won’t need prescription from doctor)”. Meaning acquiring radish regularly in your diet during winter time benefits your body and health. This is a dish using chinese braising (滷 lu) technique to cook. You will find out more introduction about lu technique when you click on “Cooking Techniques” on my main page. And now let’s get started!
MISE EN PLACE
- Radish 1 piece (about 400g)
- Tofu 250 g
- Ginger 2 slice (about thumb size)
- Scallion 2 stems
- Chilli 2
- Garlic 2 cloves
- Soy sauce 1 cup
- Broth (or water) 6 cups
- Cooking wine 2 tbs
- Rock sugar 2 tbs
- *Lu Spices 1 bag
- Oil 2 tbs (olive oil or any other vegetable oil)
*You can use small packaged Chinese braising spices from supermarket as my photo shown in “Cooking Techniques”. Or you can also build your own flavor profile by mixing up your choice of spices. Here is what I used for this recipe as seen below: star anise(八角) and Sichuan peppercorn(大紅袍花椒), 5 gram each; fennel(茴香), nutmeg(肉蔻), laurier(月桂葉), Chinese cinnamon(桂皮, aka. Cinnamomum cassia), fructus amomi(砂仁), licorice(甘草), lanxangia tsaoko(草果), 2 gram each. Traditionally star anise, Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese cinnamon build up the fundamental flavor of the lu liquid, therefore here I have more portion of star anise and Sichuan peppercorn. As to the other spices, each of them also possess different properties and various flavor characteristics. Combined all these spices together will create very rich, layered aroma and flavor for the lu liquid. But pay attention to the portion of each spices. The flavor profile I want to create here has a basal taste from star anise and Sichuan peppercorn, hence the other spices will be of smaller portion just to give hints of their distinct flavors. But do not panic when you see some strange or exotic spices here. TIPS: Even if you cannot find these spices in store or any packaged lu spice bags, just use the most basics: star anise, Sichuan peppercorn, Chinese cinnamon, and fennel (these are spices build up the flavor profile of traditional Chinese “Five Spice”), you can still create a delicious and aromatic lu braising liquid.
1.Prepare ginger, scallion, chili, and garlic cloves. Rinse and clean with water. Chop scallion in large sections, slice ginger, and peel garlic cloves. Slightly rinse and put all spices into a little spice bag.
2. Peel and chop radish, cut tofu into chunks.
3. Prepare radish. TIPS: if you do not like the slightly bitter or tangy taste of radish, cook it in rice water (the milky water from rinsing rice) first until radish looks a bit transparent and becomes tender. By doing so, the strong taste will be fully reduced. I’m on the contrary quite enjoy the fresh flavor of radish, so I cook it only in water for about 10 minutes. Precooking radish will reduce actual braising time, radish absorbs lu flavor faster as well.
4. Bring a frying pan or a wok to medium heat, add in oil, scallions, ginger, chili and garlic cloves. Lightly stir fry until fragrant. Pay attention to the heat and use your senses to watch and smell the changes of scent and color of your spices. Do not burn garlic cloves to avoid bitter taste.
5. Add in soy sauce, cooking wine (here I used a rice wine from Taiwan), rock sugar, and broth. If you are making a vegan braising liquid as I am in the recipe, add water or vegetable based broth instead. Turn up heat, cook until boil, then turn down to low heat and simmer to infuse the spices for 15-20 minutes until the cooking liquid is aromatic.
6. Transfer the cooking liquid into a different pot, preferably of stainless steel that does not interact with acidity or wine. TIPS: If you aim to preserve the braising liquid for future usage or develop your lu liquid into master stock, I suggest that you use this pot only for braising. Turn on low heat until you see small bubbles arising on the surface.
Add in radish, let it simmer for about 15 minutes. How long do you need to simmer depends on your preference of mouthfeel to your radish. I usually like to have my radish still with some resistance to bite, so I’ll let it cook for about 10 minutes before turning off heat. If you prefer a softer mouthfeel with less or almost no resistance, simmer it for about 20 minutes or more. You can always test it by piercing a pointed chopstick into the radish or do so with a paring knife. Once the texture reaches your ideal status, turn off the heat but remain *soaking radish in lu liquid until it cools down.
7. Now it’s time to braise tofu. TIPS: to braise tofu, good idea is to use a separate pot. Because if you are going to keep and reuse your lu liquid in the future, cooking tofu tends to spoil it and the lu liquid will not be able to preserve in a longer time. Hence in a different pot, add in the lu liquid from radish, bring to boil then add in tofu. You can also braise radish and tofu at the same time. Just transfer lu liquid into two different pots from wok. Cook for a few minutes then turn down to low heat, simmer for about *10 minutes, turn off heat and let tofu to cool down in the pot before serving. Whether to serve cold as an appetizer or serve warm as a side dish is your preference. Enjoy!
Good to Know:
- As I explained in previous article “滷 (Lu)-Braising, Chinese Style” in “Chinese Cooking Technique” section, the cooking technique of braising is about cooking your prepared ingredients in a low-heat simmering lu liquid and continue bathing the food in when the heat is off, until it cools down. The process is to let the food fully absorbs the essence of lu liquid during cooling. Why? Because when radish, tofu or any other ingredients you used for braising is being cooked, the moisture contained inside will be released due to heating. Letting ingredients soaked in lu liquid while cooling is allowing the fragrant lu liquid once again to be stored back in the tissue of food. This is why lu is a method that enhances and better intermingles flavors of food with the braising liquid.
- Radish is a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, folate and potassium.