September 14, 2009
Deep Fried Tou Foo
This is the hard (dried) tou foo - we use it when we make Foochow Meat Pies and Foochow Pork Mushroom Balls.
This is the silky soft tou foo or the Water Tou Foo (Shui Tou Foo) - for making soup and ma po tou foo.
These two photos show my deep fried soft silky tou foo. A non-stick pan with good cooking oil help to deep fry this kind of tou foo very easily.
There are two kinds of tou foo sold in Sibu : silky soft tou foo and harder tou foo ( dried tou foo).
Tou foo in Traditional Chinese it is 荳腐 or 豆腐 and in Simplified Chinese it is 豆腐 . We have to say it in Hanyu Pinyin "dòufu" but we normally spell it as Tou Foo or Tau Foo in Sibu.
Some of my relatives who lived in Ah Nang Chong before the 1980's actually made tou foo for a living. And Foochows have expressions related to tou foo like
" it was a very rocky ride...just like filtering tou hou...."
"Her skin is white like tou foo.."
" Soft like tou foo..."
"If you become a monk ...you will eat only tou foo..."
He is as soft as tou foo. (He is very generous.)
Many exasperated Foochow mothers would scold their children in this way " Is your head full of tou foo?" (Are you lacking in brains?)
Street vendors of olden days were believed to have called out " This magical potion is good for you if you are bitten by a dead snake or hit by a tou foo!!" (There's a lot of silliness/crap in this actually.)
Actually tou foo has very little flavour or taste. We have to create different sauces or cook in different ways to make it taste too. Most Foochows in those early days depended on tou foo as a necessary food to supplement the lack of meat and also to save on domestic expenses. So tou foo sold very well in Sibu even before the wave of new food fad or vegetarian diet.
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds. Although pre-made soy milk may be used, most tofu producers begin by making their own soy milk, which is produced by soaking, grinding, boiling and straining dried (or, less commonly, fresh) soybeans.
Coagulation of the protein and oil (emulsion) suspended in the boiled soy milk is the most important step in the production of tofu. This process is accomplished with the aid of coagulants. Two types of coagulants (salts and acids) are used commercially. The third type of coagulant, enzymes, is not yet used commercially but shows potential for producing both firm and "silken" tofu.
The curds are processed differently depending on the form of tofu that is being manufactured. For soft silken tofu (嫩豆腐; nèn dòufu) or tofu flower (豆花, dòuhuā) the soy milk is curdled directly in the tofu's selling package. For standard firm Asian tofu, the soy curd is cut and strained of excess liquid using cheese cloth or muslin and then lightly pressed to produce a soft cake. Firmer tofus, such as Asian dry tofu (荳乾) or Western types of tofu, are further pressed to remove even more liquid. In Vietnam, the curd is strained and molded in a square mold and the end product is called đậu khuôn (molded bean) or đậu phụ (one of the Vietnamese ways to pronounce the Chinese doufu). The tofu curds are allowed to cool and become firm. The finished tofu can then be cut into pieces, flavored or further processed.
Dried tofu (豆乾, dòu gān in Chinese, lit. "dry tofu"): An extra firm variety of tofu with the least amount of moisture of all fresh tofu. It has the firmness of fully cooked meat and a somewhat rubbery feel similar to paneer. When sliced thinly, this tofu can be crumbled easily. The skin of this form of tofu has the pattern of the muslin used to drain and press it.
As children in a Foochow family we ate lots of silky tou foo and dried tou foo every day in fact instead of meat. So my first taste of deep fried food was the deep fried tou foo. It could be made very crunchy if mother cooked it longer. But we loved the tou foo slices with just alittle of the crunchy bit and the soft inside. We ate the deep fried tou foo with lots of tou yiu or black bean sauce.
The impact of eating a lot of tou foo when growing up has been great. If I do not know what to order in a restaurant the only dish which would appeal to me would be the tou foo on the menu. I would ask for their best dish. In fact it would be a good idea most of the time. Some one a long time ago told me that a good chef would be identified by three good dishes : fried rice- tou foo - and stir fry greens. If these three dishes do not come up well this chef has still a long way to go.
It is hard to forget the crunchy exterior of deep fried tou foo and the soft creamy inside. My mother does it so well that she does not even need a non stick pan to fry her tou foo. Today I make it a point to cook this dish at least once a week. (see photos)Eating tou foo helps me keep my feet on the ground and remember my past.
One of my doctor friends would not eat tou foo because he thinks that it looks too much like human brain!!
And I stick to one tou foo seller in Miri. Her tou foo gets sold before ten. Some people don't understand why I rush to the market just for her tou foo.
In Sibu my mother would buy tou foo only from our Tou Foo Uncle (the story about him will be in a future post). You see in a small close knit community you tend to buy things only from an "uncle" or "aunty" you know well and in this way you never get cheated. This is akin to our modern day branding.
Thousands of dishes can be created out of tou foo. Today my favourite Foochow dishes would be Oyster Tou Foo Soup from Hock Chu Lou and Tou Foo steamed with Salted Tenggiri and belly pork.
Eating good tou foo makes me think think that I am floating on a cloud - crossing the sea with the 8 immortals of Chinese legends.