Tofu with Oyster Sauce and Scallions

April 21, 2013
By Holly Jennings

Tofu with Oyster Sauce

One day, wanting to make use of some tofu and scallions in the fridge, I came up with this very simple stir-fry. Having just spent several weeks cooking from Grace Young’s cookbook The Breath of a Wok, I felt emboldened to improvise with what I had on hand.

Once you do some wok time with the recipes in The Breath of a Wok you begin to get into a wok rhythm, and to gain a basic understanding of how seasoning is used.

The latter isn’t terribly difficult to do because at its heart, home-style Cantonese cooking, which makes up the bulk of the recipes in Breath, is not complicated. Low-key seasoning is meant to enhance the flavor of fresh seasonal produce, not overwhelm or camouflage it. This cooking philosophy is better understood, as Grace Young pointed out to me, when you consider the birthplace of the cuisine: Guangdong province on the South China Sea Coast. There the weather is very warm, similar to Florida, Young says, affording cooks the luxury of fresh produce throughout much of the year. To celebrate the natural bounty, a cuisine developed that seeks to highlight the quality of each ingredient using good wok techniques (such as not over crowding the wok), high heat, and a purposely restrained use of pantry condiments and aromatics.

Serves 4

14 ounces tofu, rinsed and cut into 1-inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 cup good-quality, low-sodium chicken broth, preferably homemade
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons peanut oil

  1. Place the tofu cubes on a rack set over a pan. Sprinkle the tofu evenly with the salt and let stand 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chicken broth.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a drop or two of water sizzles and evaporates almost immediately. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the oil and add half of the tofu. Reduce the heat to medium and pan-fry the tofu until golden on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large paper towel−lined plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and pan-fry the remaining tofu until golden, then transfer to the paper towel−lined plate to drain.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the garlic. Stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the soy sauce mixture. Cook over high heat until reduced by one-third, about 3 minutes. Return the tofu to the wok and cook for 1 minute, turning the tofu over from time to time to fully coat in the sauce. Add the scallion and cook 20 seconds, turning a few times. Serve with rice.




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