I stole the idea for this dish from my favorite restaurant in the world, Mr. Chopsticks in Denton, Texas. However, it has recently come to my attention that many of you do not live in North Texas, and that others don’t appreciate food being served by disinterested art students with beards and without bras. None of the waitstaff could tell me the ingredients in this dish because they are all too busy snorting lines off of Devendra Banhart cds, so I was left to fend for myself. This is my interpretation of “Spicy Mixed Vegetables with Tofu.” Now that I’ve typed it out, that title sucks. Henceforth, this dish shall be called “Boy Division,” and it is taken from my upcoming cookbook Are You There God? It’s Me, Television’s Jerry O’Connell.
Now, to whip up a batch of “Boy Division,” this is what you will need:
- 1 Block of Extra Firm Tofu
- 3 Heads (Stalks? Bunches?) of Baby Bok Choy
- 1 Can of Sliced Water Chestnuts
- 1 Can of Sliced Bamboo Shoots
- 2 Large Bunches of Broccoli
- 16 Ounce Carton of Sliced Button Mushrooms
- 1 Cup Shredded Carrot
- 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 6 or 7 Whole Dried Chilis
- 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
- 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Turbinado Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
- 1/2 Cup Water
- A Dash of Teriyaki
- 1 Tablespoon of Minced Garlic
I know, there are a ton of ingredients. To make things easier, I’m going to split this into three operations.
First, let’s talk tofu:
The ideal tofu texture for this dish is golden brown and delicious, and barely spongy at all on the inside. What’s the best way to achieve this? That’s right: my beloved deep fryer. See, not all vegans are latte sipping grass eaters, just the douchey ones. You’ll need to prepare some paper towels as an evacuation site for your fried tofu. Heat your deep fryer to 400 degrees. While the fryer is heating, cut your tofu block into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Too small, and they will turn into carbonized bean curd diamonds. Too big, they still taste like tofu in the middle, which is generally gross. Once your tofu is cut and your fryer is heated, fry the tofu in four different batches. If you crowd the fryer, the tofu gets greasy, and nobody likes psychobilly tofu. Each batch should take around 4 minutes. Once they begin to turn golden, they are done. Remove them to aforementioned paper towels, and let’s turn our attention to the second portion.
Part two is saucemaking:
This is the step that is most generally up to individual tastes and discretion. I’ll tell you the way I generally prepare mine, but use it as a diving board for your own experiments. As a word of advice, however, stay away from Root Beer Schnapps. In a saucepan, combine the broth, water, soy sauce, sugar, and teriyaki sauce. Gently whisk in the cornstarch. Once the ingredients are well combined, add the dried chilis and the garlic, and place the mixture over medium heat. Let the sauce simmer over medium heat until it has thickened and reduced slightly. Feel free to taste it along the way. If you get your soy sauce or teriyaki measurements wrong, you might need to add some more water. Also, if you prefer a tart sauce, add a splash of rice wine vinegar. Once you have attained the desired flavor profile, reduce the heat to low and begin the home stretch of the dish.
Phase three is where we finally bring everything together, and it begins with cooking the vegetables:
Heat your oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok, and then add your sliced mushrooms and broccoli florets. If some of the broccoli pieces are too large, cut them in half lengthwise. Stir them until the mushrooms begin to release moisture and take color, and the broccoli begins to brighten in color. Once this has occurred, add the rest of the vegetables and continue stirring 4-6 minutes, or until the broccoli is al dente. Regarding the baby bok choy, I generally chiffonade the leafy sections and let them wilt, while I prefer the stalks to be cut into a few pieces and left essentially bite sized. When the vegetables are almost done, add your sauce and tofu, and cook for a few minutes to let the flavors mingle. Remove from heat and serve with a side of my favorite rice, the fragrant and delicious basmati.
There you have it. I know the ingredient list is a little longer than my previous outings, but the trouble of buying a few extra items and dirtying a few extra dishes is absolutely worth the pay off. Eat it while you drink a Kirin Ichiban and listen to Melt Banana. And yeah, I know Kirin isn’t really an Asian beer. This isn’t really an Asian dish, dickhead. Enjoy!