Cashew + Spicy Tofu Stir-Fry

I’m sure any card-carrying Chinese person would look at this recipe and call it straight-from-the-motherland Chinese food. No hippie around, just Chinese. I’m adding the hippie part because this reminds me of something I would have eaten at a Dead show.  This feels vaguely familiar and was probably eaten in the back of a Volkswagen Bus. Can you picture it?

I wouldn’t call myself a Deadhead, per se. My college boyfriend was actually the catalyst in getting us to shows. Anytime they played anywhere along the west coast, we were there. We saw them at Shoreline…in Bend…we even saw them at The Forum in LA. Which was the anti-Dead show. How can you have a Dead show in the middle of LA?  You can’t…you just can’t… This went on for several years until I couldn’t dance in circles for one more minute. I’d had enough falafel to last a lifetime.

I learned a couple of things during that period in my life:

  1. I love falafel. I still crave it (so clearly I didn’t have enough). And tahini? Don’t even get me started.
  2. I need to shower with more frequency than many fellow concertgoers. I’ll take this one even further: I don’t like to stay places that don’t have showers or running water. Call me high maintenance, I don’t care. I’ve been in the trenches and it’s not pretty. And it stinks. Everyone smells like a falafel douched in patchouli.
  3. I’m a big fan of tofu. It’s like the vegan version of chicken. It just wants to marry the flavors of whatever else you pair it with. It’s easygoing, adaptable and can take on many forms. I like that in a food. Thanks for working with me in any way I want you to…thanks tofu, I really appreciate it.

But let’s not panic. I’ll eat a steak faster than Fred Flintstone. I just want to work tofu back into the weekly rotation. Buying it at the store doesn’t feel completely mainstream to me yet. Thoughts? Agree? I still feel a little fringe as I’m deciding over firm or extra firm. Think about that.

When we were living in Beijing I wasn’t a hippie chick buying tofu. I was doing what you do when you live in China. You eat tofu. Sometimes you eat tofu because the menu isn’t translated and you’re not sure what the hell they’re serving up in the form of meat. Exhibit A: there was a Korean restaurant down the street from our house that served dog. I know this because the person formally known as my spouse is fluent in Mandarin and translated that one for me. The dog-eating sign came down before the Olympics. All the good signs did. One of my favorites was the Anal and Intestine Hospital. It still makes me giggle.

There was also a place that served royal meals. As in: let’s eat like the emperors did. It’s a bit like fine dining at Disneyland. Gimmicky. They had horse on the menu. As in: neigh and giddy up. I kid you not. In case you didn’t know, things are different over there. I mean, really different. You should go and see for yourself. Before you roll out your valley girl voice and say, oh-my-god, LA is so polluted and just as crazy, sample the world my friend. Because OH MY GOD, there is some crazy-ass stuff happening outside our little Main Street, USA.

I think I’ve pretty much covered why this is hippie Chinese…two major, influential periods in my life colliding in one beautifully simple dish. And it’s filling. And it feels healthy. And my kids love it. If you don’t like tofu, but you’ve read this far, let me grab your hand and escort you to the other side…I promise you’ll like the journey.

Sara Moulton recently had a tofu sauté recipe in the newspaper…it inspired me to dust off my tofu skills. I futzed with quantities and ingredients and stuff. You’ll see. Feel free to get frisky as well…use different vegetables, make it more spicy, peanuts instead of cashews…hell, you could even use chicken instead of tofu…and pretend you’re at the LA Dead show. On second thought, stick with the tofu.

Cashew + Spicy Tofu Stir-Fry

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 14-ounce container of extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth/stock
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (to say I’m obsessed with chili-garlic sauce is an understatement)
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (you could cut back on this if you’re using a nonstick pan)
  • 1 cup orange/red/yellow bell pepper strips (you can pick one color or use all three…cut into little matchsticks)
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into smaller, bite-sized little trees
  • 3 teaspoons fresh ginger root, minced
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ – ½ cup cashews, coarsely chopped (use whichever amount depending on how healthy you’re feeling)
  • ¼ cup chives or green onions, chopped
  • Rice for serving…I usually put a mixture of white and brown rice in the cooker. No one ever knows that I’ve put the brown in there…it gets a little lost with all the white. I also usually assume that my kids will have anywhere from ½-1 cup of cooked rice each.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut your tofu in half so that you have two thin chunks of tofu.
  2. Grab some paper towels and wrap them around the tofu. Set a plate on top of the tofu (with some heavy cans on top)…this will help get rid of some excess moisture.
  3. After about 20-30 minutes unwrap your tofu and cut into 1/2 –inch cubes.
  4. Here’s the best tip that anyone will ever give you when it comes to stir-fry’s: prep everything first. When it comes time to cook, dinner will be ready in no time if you do this.
  5. Mix the sauce together, chicken broth through cornstarch. Make sure you get the cornstarch thoroughly blended. Set aside.
  6. Cut and chop and dice and whatever all the remaining ingredients. Also, you’re rice is cooked and ready, right? If it’s not, pause right now and make that happen. And then crack open a beer, pour a class a wine or mainline some vodka and wait until the rice is closer to being done before you proceed.
  7. In a large skillet, put 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-ish heat. You don’t want it on high, but you want the skillet pretty warm-hot. Put one piece of tofu in there and see if it does a little sizzle. If it does, you’re ready. Put half of the tofu in the pan and stir-fry until most (if not all) sides are browned. A nice tan…end-of-summer golden. This should take about 8-10 minutes. When they look bronzy, set them aside on a plate. Use that plate you used for weighting the tofu so you have fewer dishes.
  8. Add another tablespoon of the vegetable oil and cook the remaining tofu in the same manner. Set them aside with the other tofu. Let them hang.
  9. Put the last tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan. Add the broccoli and peppers and stir-fry for about three minutes. Turn the heat down a hair if things seem like they’re getting dark too fast. You want it hot but not burning hot. It’s a fine line. So don’t start painting your nails or anything. But you might want a drink? I’m thinkin’? A yummy beer. What about Tsing Tao? Beer isn’t my go-to booze…but there are certain meals that welcome beer with open arms. This is one of them.
  10. Add the garlic and ginger and give these guys around 30-50 seconds to mingle and get to know their peers. This is s a quick meet-n-greet.
  11. Add the sauce and stir around until it starts to bubble and thicken. Once thickened, I would turn the heat off.
  12. Add the tofu, cashews and green onions. Toss to coat with the sauce.
  13. Finishing touch is the 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Put that on there and give everything a good swirl.
  14. You’re done. Mound some rice in a bowl. Throw an equal-size mound of this on top and then climb in bed. I mean, go to the dinner table and have a civilized meal.

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2 Comments

  • kate 2016/10/09 at 4:23 PM

    i made this for dinner last night and even my tofu-skeptical husband loved it! the sauce is delicious and flexible if you, too, check to make sure you have all the ingredients, go to the store to get a few things, then come home and discover you don’t have all the ingredients (seriously, what is my problem?!). the whole recipe comes together quickly and leftovers (which i’m eating as i type) are excellent. yum!

    Reply
    • DisplacedHousewife 2016/10/09 at 4:38 PM

      Kate — Yeah!! I’m so glad you loved it!! Now I’m thinking this might be our dinner tonight!!! Happy Sunday! xoxo

      Reply

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