Welcome to 2012! As you may know, I’ve been preoccupied with tofu. My obsession has mostly been with the kind made from soybeans – the typical stuff eaten by countless people in Asia and beyond. But "tofu" is also a generic term used to describe a wide range of jelled and solidified foods in the Chinese repertoire. For example, some Chinese cookbooks use “almond tofu” to denote the sweet almond–flavored dessert solidified with seaweed-based agar agar. (In the Viet mindset, that’s a type of thach/jelly.) Burmese tofu, also called Shan tofu, is made like polenta with ground beans and water. Japanese sesame tofu is delicate and divine; find out more about goma dofu from Just Hungry.
Then there’s egg tofu that comes in a tube. It looks like a tiny torpedo and feels like a filled balloon in its plastic casing. Sold at Chinese markets, egg tofu is made with eggs and soymilk, with an eggy richness that prevails. Egg tofu is popular with my Taiwanese and Hong Kong friends, who enjoy it simply fried and bathed in sauce.
Unlike regular (all soybean-based) tofu, you don't see tons of egg tofu at Asian markets. There would be tons of competition if it were a super popular food! In fact, the only brand that I’ve bought in Northern California comes from Canada:
The label claims that Mandarin Soyfoods (owned by Sunrise Soya) is the original egg tofu maker. (Anyone know about that?)
If you see egg tofu at an Asian market, give it a whirl with a recipe like this one. My inspiration came from Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant, a dim sum hot spot in the Chinese-centric San Gabriel Valley/Monterey Park area east of downtown Los Angeles. We went there last week for lunch. The dumplings were well crafted but the standout dim sum dish of the day was deep-fried egg tofu with sweet chile sauce.
The scallop-shaped pieces were custardy and savory, while the sauce was tangy-sweet with a touch of heat. We were so bowled over that I had to recreate when we got home. Funnily enough, yours truly did not have enough oil to deep-fry so I pan-seared the tofu instead – like you would a scallop. It turned out great and was super fast and easy to boot!
Pan-Seared Egg Tofu Scallops with Sweet Chile Sauce
Serves 2 as a snack or side dish
One 8.64 ounce package egg tofu
About 1 tablespoon canola oil
About 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Thai Sweet Chile Sauce, homemade or store bought
1 tablespoon scallion rings, green part only
1. Cut the package on the dotted line and then remove the tofu from the plastic. Cut it into 1-inch-thick rounds.
2. Heat a small nonstick skillet over high heat. Pour in enough oil to film the bottom. Blot the tofu pieces dry and then dip the cut ends in a bit of cornstarch.
Pan-fry the tofu for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Reduce the heat if the pan smokes.
While the tofu fries, put about 2 tablespoons of Thai sweet chile sauce on a small serving plate. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the scallion rings on top.
When the tofu finishes pan-frying, transfer the pieces to the serving plate. Top with a little more sweet chile sauce and the leftover scallion. Serve immediately.
Familiar with Chinese egg tofu? What do you do with it? Or, how have you had it served?