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November 12, 2008

Tofu Defies Time


If you could pick the best way to graph most recipes, the most common form used would be the timeline. For instance, you brown ground beef for a couple of minutes, after which you drain and then add a kind of tomato sauce. After simmering a few moments, you would then spoon this out of the pan and then top the bottom of a hamburger bun.


Occasionally, however, you come across food that defies a timeline. You add it all together at the same time, heat for a few moments and call it good.


This is most typical of foods where the ingredients all come with their own flavors, all strong enough that continuous heat wouldn’t resolve any issues. These things would otherwise forever be at loggerheads.


The greatest surprise is perhaps the use of tofu under these conditions.


Tofu, by itself, is nearly as interesting and tasty as it looks. It is typically sold in white blocks that if held up the eyes might convince the dull witted that they were suffering from snow blindness.

Its texture is nearly as appetizing as its appearance. By itself, it is bland company indeed. But it does have a secret.


Unlocking it starts with vegetable broth. Pour it into a pot. Add to it soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Stir it together, and begin to heat.


As the broth swirls round and round the pot, grate into it garlic cloves and fresh, peeled ginger. Finally, sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes and salt to taste.


By now, it should be obvious that we are going to use soup to grease these wheels. Most people think that the chief usage of soup is to chase away a chill, but here it is used to find an alternate graph for food than a timeline. There is no way to overstate the utility of soup.


Cut some slabs of tofu into small cubes, and add those and dried oyster mushrooms to the broth.


Although this has been stretched over several paragraphs, you should do all of it at the same time.


Heat for 15 minutes, which is enough time for the mushrooms to absorb the broth and add their own earthy fingerprint to the soup.


At the end of a quarter-hour, you will finally come to understand the true powers of soup, and also unlock the secret of tofu.


Take a spoonful of the broth and include one of the tofu cubes. You will be amazed. What was one bland man, standing alone, now has rich and spicy flavor. Soup has infused the tofu cubes with the broth’s flavor. The secret of tofu is thus: Tofu may be bland, but it also takes on the flavors of things around it.


Soup is powerful. Worship soup, for it is your master.


If you by chance have brown rice lying about, unsettled and looking for something to do, consider adding that to the broth. Finish, if you like, by garnishing with bean sprouts.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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