The yang of beef balances the yin of tofu. Traditionally this dish is made with silken tofu. It falls into soft, custard-like curds when cut. Then, when the beef's poured on top, the tofu melts and absorbs the flavors. Using silken tofu also saves a cooking step. I think most Americans prefer a firmer tofu. Cook firm tofu until lightly browned gives it a good flavor and texture of its own. If you want to add a vegetable component, serve the beef over spinach with rice on the side or stir a fine chiffonade of Swiss chard into the meat during the last minute of cooking, just to wilt the chard.
12 ounces boneless rib-eye steak, trimmed of fat
and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices across the grain
1 cup Shanghainese Red Pepper Sauce (see below), divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
14 ounces firm tofu, cut into pieces about 1/4 inch thick and 2 inches square
1/4 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch dice (optional)
In a small bowl, toss the meat with 1/2 cup of the sauce and set aside for about 5 minutes.
Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a flat-bottomed wok or nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Add the tofu, sprinkle it lightly with salt, and cook, swirling the pan and stirring gently to prevent the tofu from sticking. Be careful not to break up the tofu. Keep moving and turning the tofu until it is lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the tofu to a plate and keep warm in the oven on low heat.
In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat. Scrape the meat and marinade into the pan. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sauce, or to taste, and quickly stir and cook until the meat is done bur still rare, about 2 minutes. Immediately pour over the tofu and serve the dish garnished with diced red pepper, if desired.
Makes about 1 cup
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 packed tablespoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Stir the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Measure the remaining soy sauce, sugar, sherry, chili sauce, ginger and oil into a small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir the cornstarch mixture again and then stir it into the pan. Simmer gently about 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Pour the sauce into a bowl or jar and let it cool before use. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Modern Asian Flavors
A Taste of Shanghai
by Richard Wong
143 pages with full-color illustrations throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created May 2006
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