For three years I’ve heard from D, “I don’t like Chinese food.”
In fact, the only thing I’ve ever made that D didn’t even try (when I attempted and failed my friend’s chutney) was because it smelled like Chinese food.
ANYWAY, I’m a nanny, which also includes cooking for the family. A family favorite of theirs is mother-in-law’s sweet and sour pork/chicken. I’ve made it several times, eventually perfecting it for the family after about five tries. Each time dying to snatch a taste because it smells so, so good.
SO, casually the other day, I said, “How does sweet and sour tofu sound for tonight,” and got no argument. (“Maybe he doesn’t realize it’s Chinese food,” I thought.)
I slightly changed the recipe, since there was no need to boil the tofu like you do the meat, but I still needed the leftover clove-infused water. For some reason, taking the meat out of the equation, made the recipe that much easier to prepare.
I managed to whip it up in about a half hour, got it on the table with chopsticks and even fortune cookies. Then came the moment of truth…
“This is delicious. Every time you make something it’s my new favorite thing.”
Here’s the recipe:
6-8 whole cloves
2 c. water
5 T. cornstarch (separated)
1 stick butter/margarine/similar
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce + 2 T.
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. ginger
2 peppers (green, red, orange, yellow)
1 medium onion
1 pkg. tofu
1 small can pineapple chunks
1. Boil the water with the cloves. Just boil for a couple of minutes to infuse the water with the cloves.*
2. Drain pineapple juice into some type of measuring cup (hopefully a 2 c. one). Fill up to 1 1/2 c. line with the clove water. (Remove cloves!)
3. Drain tofu and cut into cubes. Whisk together 2 T. each of cornstarch and soy sauce, then toss with tofu.
4. Fry in some of the butter and oil (it’s not a science here — whatever works, add more if you need more so your tofu gets all nice and crispy and doesn’t stick to the pan).
5. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook chunked up peppers, onions and the pineapple in a bit of the butter and/or oil.
6. Once all that’s cooking and on its way (remember to keep tossing the tofu so it gets crispy all over!) it’s time to make the sauce!
In small saucepan:
• Melt 1/4 c. butter
• Whisk in 3 T cornstarch
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
• 1/4 c. soy sauce
• 1/4 tsp. ginger
• the 1 1/2 c. liquid (clove water/pineapple juice)
Stir constantly until thick.
7. Add the crispy tofu to the peppers, onion and pineapple.
8. Pour sauce into the pan and mix it all up.
9. Serve over brown rice (or your preferred rice).
* If you’re cooking with meat, boil cubes of chosen meat in the clove water, remove cloves, drain (and reserve per recipe) and let meat cool before tossing in soy-cornstarch mixture and frying. Set aside, cook veggies in same pan, add tofu back to pan to heat through before adding sauce.