When I was a child, few things made me feel more Chinese than eating bean curd, or tofu, as it is now popularly known. In Chicago at the time, bean curd was found only in Chinatown. My American friends would look at it in a strange way: ‘Is it cheese?’ they would ask.
It is rather bland but, to my Chinese palate, its subtle, slightly chalky taste is most appealing, especially when it is fresh. Even as a child I knew it was as nutritious but much less expensive than meat, and lighter.
At home, my mother prepared fried, stuffed and braised bean curd, but I much enjoyed it when she simply added it to soup. Bean curd very congenially absorbs even the most subtle of flavours. The silky texture of the bean curd would gently swirl inside my mouth as I savoured this delicate and much-prized food.
Bring the stock to a simmer. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and continue to simmer for 2 minutes uncovered. Cut the bean curd into bite-size cubes and gently slide them into the simmering stock. Dump in the bok choy and allow the soup to simmer for 2 minutes. Drizzle the soy sauce and sesame oil on top of the soup, mix and serve at once.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.