Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Five Spice Tofu with Chinese-Style Smoked Bacon

While idly flipping through a copy of Saveur magazine that I found on Boston Boy's coffee table, I came across an article that had me bouncing up and down in my seat and possibly drooling. (Though I refuse to admit that part of the story.)

I had been wrestling with finding a tofu recipe to feed to a friend who said he would rather eat worms than bean curd, when the solution appeared before me like an oasis in the desert or a wet nap at a rib joint. The perfect solution.

Right there on those glossy pages I not only found my project for the day but also the most delectible meal for anyone who (in this day and age, can you imagine?) is still bean-curd-a-phobic.

I mean come on, a girl with cash in her wallet and no place to be…what better way to spend a few hours than tooling around town in search of an elusive new ingredient to feed to a stubborn Oklahoma boy with a fear of "hippy food." Stir Fried Tofu with Chinese Style Smoked Bacon. Get it? Bacon and tofu. What could be less health-concious? Now, say it with me…mmm.

The first order of business was to locate a purveyor of said bacon. The magazine suggested mail ordering the porcine delight, but, uh, that wasn't likely. So, after inquires abound, I kept hearing the same thing over and over…I would have to drive to the heavily Chinese neighborhood, Monterey Park or count myself out.

Turns out, Montery Park is a place that really is crazy-far away and frankly, not even some where I have ever driven to myself. (The shame! The shame! I know! What kind of foodie am I!) So what was my response? Nope. Not gonna happen. Boxed in by my fear of getting lost, I went with my only other option, I lit out on a wing and a prayer and tooled down to Chinatown, (side note: I refuse to say "Forget about it" based simply on the fact, that its just too cliché for words)magazine in hand, on a quest for my main (seasoning) ingredient.

News flash: Most of the grocery stores in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles are actually Vietnamese. Sensational if you want Vietnamese food, not so great for Chinese. English is not spoken (something I find beyond awesome. It's like going on an exotic vacation without stepping foot on a plane) and my magazine photo yielded nada. It was a challenge indeed. After many, many, many strange looks (You try pantomiming "bacon!") I was given something that seemed to fit the bill and all I could say was, yippee, I was on my way.

A quick stop into a Mexican market for chiles and a stop into my favorite Korean grocery for a vat of kimchee (I just wanted it and I figured I was nearby, so why not!) and I was ready to get my wok on.

The meal itself comes together in, oh, say, 12 minutes, so be ready for a wham-bam-pow spicy taste treat. And for you out there with a fear of tofu? Pfft. Jump on the wagon baby, I promise you, the ride is outrageous.

Flavored with five-spice powder, bacon, hot chiles, garlic chives and soy sauce, well, you couldn't ask for a better meal.

Sure, the bacon itself was so fatty that after steaming it (no, I'm not sure why that is a step, but I did it anyway. The package and the magazine said so) and trimming away the lard (hey man, I just call it like I see it.) there wasn't a whole heck-of-a-lot left over except enough to add a smoky meatiness that will melt your mind.

See that picture over there? Now tell me that isn't some crazy-lardy food. The strip on the left? No meat what-so-ever, and those little ones, just a touch right in the center. Though on the whole, once trimmed, the entire package-worth is a-ok. Really, this is the ideal example of how in Chinese cuisine, meat is a seasoning much more often than the focus of the dish, because heck knows I didn't end up with much of it added in. So go on and try this my peaches. On a hot summer night, when you don't want to be messing around, it's quick as lightning to pull off and really a perfect dish. Serve it with steamed white rice (duh.) and enjoy!

1 lb Chinese style smoked bacon

1 block 5 spice seasoned baked tofu. Sliced into bite sized pieces

1 medium bunch garlic chives, sliced into 1 inch pieces

6 -8 chiles de arbol, (or more, to taste) cut into large pieces

Soy sauce to taste

In a steamer, steam the bacon over a low simmer for five to six minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Trim as much of the fat off as you want.

In a large frying pan or wok, saute the bacon until it renders some fat. (Even with all that trimming there is bound to be some left) add the tofu and saute until browned, about five minutes.

Add the garlic chives and chiles and continue to saute until wilted. Serve immediately.

Serves four


The origins of five-spice powder are lost, but there is some thought that the Chinese were attempting to produce a "wonder powder" encompassing all of the five elements. The common ingredients are Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds.

A legal challenge to the city of Chicago's Tuesday ban on the sale of fois gras is being filed by outraged restaurant owner Allen Sternweiller, who owns Allen's The New American CafA. He told WBBM-TV, Chicago, he had the challenge prepared, and would file it Tuesday morning as the ban took effect. The City Council passed the ban based on animal rights activists' claims that farmers force-feed ducks and geese to fatten their livers. -Newscom

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This recipe probably would've gone over well back in da hood! :D
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