Tofu improvisation

If tofu is the only thing you have, you cannot make teriyaki tofu. I learned this only after I drained the tofu and my hunt for rice powder and teriyaki sauce yielded nothing. My brother was fifteen minutes away, and the Youngest Niece is always excited and hungry when she gets to our place. I had to finish the tofu fast.

Step 1: Lightly dredge in potato starch and fry till teh cubes are golden outside and soft inside. Replace rice flour by besan. Medium heat for the oil is needed to do a quick cook. This step went well. Cook one side thoroughly before flipping the pieces. (Forgot to order the tongs!) Cook till all sides are brown.

Step 2: Drop teriyaki sauce into the pan, add katsuobushi, and let the sauce coat the tofu cubes and thicken. Impossible. Improvised a mixture of soya sauce and a spicy fig chutney to get a sweet and sour taste. Can’t add this to the pan, so I plated the tofu and poured this over the cubes. I realize I should have added more soya to make it run. But when I taste the scrapings from the mixing bowl, I like it.

Step 3: Garnish with shopped spring onions and gari (pickled ginger). Woe is me. I run to the balcony to pluck a few leaves off the ajwain plant to replace the missing spring onions. I look at the sorry gari I made, but go with it. The bit hits of taste: chunks of ginger and ajwain will be easier on the Indian palate.

I can hear the guests at the door. My hands are not very steady as I put the garnish over the tofu cubes. I haven’t seen my niece in almost a year, since I got back from Wuhan. She enters the kitchen, and I hand her the plate. Big grin. My heart melts and drips on to the plate.

This is not teriyaki tofu, but that was the inspiration. I’m happy that it goes so fast. It is a recipe I’ll use again.

Gari

It is so very easy to make gari, Japanese pickled ginger, at home! Take young ginger roots. Peel gently. Slice thin. Wash in brine. Dry. Pickle in sugar and rice vinegar. How can you spoil it?

I guess you just have to be me.

I scoured two markets and the only fresh ginger I could get is fairly old. As a result it is fibrous, and won’t slice thin. Unless you have the tempered steel blades that samurai and Saladin used (by all accounts, one of the major metallurgical exports from medieval India). So I chopped the root into thick chunks before washing it in brine.

I have given up using sugar in food a few years ago. The Family showed me the coarse brown sugar that she uses sometimes. We don’t have rice vinegar at home, and I already used the best vinegar for other pickling. So it was coarse bits of ginger in pretty harsh vinegar and brown sugar.

After a day I was surprised to find that the ginger had turned the subtle pink colour of real gari. Maybe the brown sugar was responsible for the colour change. It would have tasted better sliced thin. The flavour was good on the tongue, but when I bit into the chunk I still got the spiciness of uncured ginger.

By making all the mistakes that one can, I have now understood the recipe. I’m happy it didn’t involve expensive ingredients.