Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu
I seem to be on a tofu kick lately.  Most people say that they don't like tofu because of it's texture and bland flavor.  That always puzzled me because all the tofu dishes I grew up eating, which were home cooked thanks to my mommy, were flavorful and had varied textures depending on the dish.  Tofu acts like a sponge and soaks up any sauce that it is cooked in.  Even the plain ones that are simply deep-fried taste great to me when it is served with dipping sauce.
There are many different types of tofu available (egg tofu, soft, silken, medium, firm, tofu skin, etc.)  Combined with the vast possibilities of cooking method (chilled, steamed, braised, pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried, grilled, pressed, frozen-thawed, etc.), the variety of texture grows exponentially.
Maybe I just have weird tastes.  Or maybe most people didn't have the luxury of a cook like my mom to introduce them to tofu and unfortunately came to know poorly prepared tofu.  Even some restaurants do not do their tofu dishes justice.  It sometimes seem like it's just on the menu to be there.
In any case, this one is amongst my favorites.  I love the texture of silky soft tofu with steamed rice.  If you do as well, this is the dish for you.
My mom also sometimes uses ground pork for the stuffing, which I will get into another time.

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu
1 block of soft tofu
fine sea salt
cornstarch for dusting
10-12 large shrimps, shelled
1/3 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp minced green onions
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce

Prepare tofu:
Cut tofu into 1 1/2 inch cubes.  Make a well in the center of each cube by scooping out the middle with a metal spoon.  I used the spoon to make 4 cuts on the top of each cube, slightly angling the cut towards the center.  Be careful not to break the sides of the tofu.
Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the hollowed tofu cubes.  Turn each cube upside down.  The salt will soak in and the tofu will drain any excess liquid while you prepare the shrimp filling.

Prepare shrimp filling:
Now you may wonder why I would do this by hand, rather than utilize a food processor to pulse the shrimp into a paste.  For one thing, because my momma said so.
And...I find it difficult to maintain enough control with a food processor to keep the shrimp from ending up being too mushy.
Using a heavy meat cleaver or santoku knife, chop the shrimp up into little pieces. Mince the shrimp until the texture is like a thick paste with bits of shrimp mixed in.
Transfer the shrimp into a bowl.  Stir in a pinch of sea salt, 1/2 tsp cornstarch and white pepper.  Mix well.

Flip the tofu cubes hollow-side up again.  Very lightly dust the wells of the tofu with cornstarch.  Don't over do it, otherwise, you'll end up with glue inside the tofu.  This will help the shrimp stuffing stick to the tofu.
Scoop the shrimp filling into each tofu cube.  Place each shrimp-filled cube onto a heat-proof dish with raised sides.
Fill wok (or a large pot that is at least 1-inch wider in circumference than the dish) with 2-3 inches of water.  Place a steam rack in the wok or pot.  Place the dish on top of the rack.  Make sure the water does not reach the top of the dish.
Cover the wok or pot with lid.  Steam for about 10 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink.
Drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions.
Photograph and post pictures.  Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!

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