Wednesday, March 09, 2016

BEAN FERMENT, FIRED LOINS, AND RICE: 豆腐火腩飯

Early dinner yesterday was excellent; tofu and roasted pork loin, sauced together, and served with a mound of rice. I had gone to a chachanteng, and even though that was a lunch option (lunch ends at three o'clock), I asked if it was still possible to have it. They had no issue with that request, despite the late hour, and I ate well.


I also got to observe two tourists become totally baffled at the menu, because a chachanteng is not your mother's Chinese restaurant.
Baked spaghetti? Grilled salmon? Toast?

The typical chachanteng is strictly Hong Kong, meaning that whatever can be cobbled together into a hot or fast meal is offered, including tinned luncheon meat and tomato sauce over macaroni, odd noodly combos, bland Western soups served alongside plate lunches, snacks, casseroles, and high fat high carb hotch-a-potches, all with cups of either hot strong milk-tea or coffee and milk-tea combined, your choice.

Oh, and some typical Cantonese dishes, mostly home style.
No kung pao, no general Tzo, no shrimp Rangoon.
Not an egg roll on the premises.
No sweet'n sour.


Tofu combined with fire-loin (火腩 'fo naam'; very nearly the same as 燒肉 'siu yiuk'), in almost any form, is both home cooking and conveniently fast restaurant chow.

The fired loin is roast pork with the crust all nice and crunchy, bought from a local siu-mei vendor (燒味店), the tofu is fried chunks available at any grocery. Just some assembly and saucing, and it's done.
And it's stupendous.


Here are two recipes that show how easy it is. Use both or either as guides, come up with your own variant.


火腩炆豆腐
FO NAAM MAN DAU FU

Half pound of fire belly pork (火腩), chunk-chopped.
One tub of firm tofu, sliced into two, flat-wise.
Ten cloves garlic, left whole.
One onion, chopped.
Three slices of ginger.
One TBS soy sauce.
One TBS Shaoxing rice wine (紹興酒).
One Tsp. oyster sauce (蠔油).
One Tsp. sugar.
A dash of sesame oil (麻油).
One Tsp. cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water.

Lightly dust the tofu with cornstarch and a pinch of salt on all sides, fry in hot oil till golden brown. Remove, drain, and cut into large chunks.
Gild the ginger slices and whole garlic cloves. Reserve to a saucer.
Sauté the chopped onion, add the fire belly pork. When the edges turn golden add the soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, and a splash of water, plus the garlic and ginger. Simmer a few minutes, then put in the tofu, and stir the cornstarch solution in. Add a dash of sesame oil, serve.


[NOTES: For the Shaoxing rice wine (紹興酒 'siu hing jau') you may substitute sherry. The effect will be no different. For drinking, you may replace the sherry with Shaoxing. That, too, is good. Oyster sauce (蠔油 'ho yau') is essential, sesame oil ((麻油 'maa yau') adds fragrance.]


枝竹豆腐炆火腩
JI JUK DAU FU MAN FO NAAM

Half a pound of roast pork (火腩), chunk-chopped.
One or two sticks of dried tofu (枝竹).
One slab of firm tofu (half a tub).
Three slices ginger.
Half a head of garlic (6-8 cloves).
Three scallion, minced.
One Tbs soy sauce.
Half TBS oyster sauce.
Half Tsp. sugar.
One cup water.
One Tsp. cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water.

Cook dried tofu stick in some water till soft, cut into suitable segments. Cut the firm tofu into eight chunks and fry in hot oil till golden, remove and drain.

Sauté ginger and garlic briefly. Add the sauces, sugar, and water, bring to a boil and put in the dried tofu pieces. Simmer for about three or four minutes, then add the roast pork and fried tofu and simmer just a little while longer to heat through and combine flavours. Add the cornstarch solution and the minced scallion, stir to combine, and decant to a plate.


The goal in either version is having enough moisture in the dish to glorify the rice. A very big squirt of Sriracha hot sauce (是拉差辣椒醬 'si-laa-chaa laat-chiu jeung') on the plate is, to my mind, the crowning final touch. Wah, chan hou sik! If you really want to over-indulge, you might also put half a dozen soaked dried oysters (蠔豉 'hou si') into the pot.
Or black mushrooms (冬菇 'dong gu').
Or both.


Tofu and roast pork could be one dish among many if dining together.
May I suggest having sautéed brassica green (炒油菜 'chaau yau choi') alongside, along with some watercress soup?




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