We decided to invite two couples over for dinner one night. It was the same two couples that relocated to the US, at the same time as we did. I decided to cook them a Chinese dinner. This is where the trouble began – they weren’t expecting traditional Chinese food.
My menu consisted of rice served with steamed lap cheung (Chinese pork sausage), steamed fish with ginger and spring (green) onions, stuffed tofu, braised shiitake mushrooms, stir fried choi sum (Chinese greens), jiaozi and Szechuan pork balls. For dessert – tang yuan (glutinous rice balls with peanut filling in a sweet broth) and to finish everything off with tea, I made Chinese almond cookies.
I believe that our guests were expecting Westernized Chinese food, such as fried rice or chow mein. Whilst holding dinner parties, I’ve experienced two reasons for silence – something tastes absolutely fantastic and they want to enjoy every minute of it OR something tastes rather unusual. Let’s just say it was more of the latter. This experience, although highly humorous, went down in our books as “the dinner that went down like a fart in a lift”.
Serves 4 people
Adapted from “The Food of China”, by Deh-Ta Hsiung and Nina Simonds
- 2 x 400 g (14 oz) firm tofu, cut into 16 – 5 x 5 x 2 ½ cm (2 x 2 x 1 inch) pieces
- 2 dried Chinese mushrooms* (shiitake), soaked, and sliced finely
- 55 g (2 oz) raw prawns (shrimp), deveined and roughly chopped
- 55 g (2 oz) minced (ground) pork
- Pinch of salt
- ½ egg white, lightly beaten
- 1 t Shaoxing wine
- 1 t light soy sauce
- 1-2 t corn flour^ (cornstarch) OR un-modified potato starch
- 3-4 T peanut oil
- 4 T ready-made chicken stock
- 2 T oyster sauce
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
* The best quality dried Chinese mushrooms are the ones with very thick, cracked caps. They are considerably more expensive compared to their thinner capped counterparts, but they give a really robust flavor and meaty texture. Although you can easily get away with the inexpensive version here.
^ Corn flour (UK) is completely different to corn flour (US). If not in the UK, please use corn starch and NOT corn flour.
1. Parboil the tofu in lightly salted water for 2-3 minutes until firm, then drain.
2. Cut a slit in the bottom of each tofu triangle and set aside.
3. In a bowl, mix together the mushrooms, minced prawns (shrimp), pork, salt, egg white, rice wine, soy sauce and enough corn/potato starch to hold the mix together.
4. Fill each slit with the filling – the tofu will gape open to show the filling.
5. Heat the oil in a wok, then fry the tofu for 2 minutes on each side until golden. Pour off the excess oil, then add the stock, oyster sauce and bring back to the boil.
6. Braise for 5-6 minutes, sprinkle with spring (green) onions before serving. Serve with rice, enjoy!