Braised Chinese Mushroom Beancurd Casserole

I first tasted this vegetarian dish while visiting a Daoist temple in China. The rich and flavourful mushrooms impart their smoky tang to the deep-fried beancurd, while the various spices and sauces add delightful dimensions. It is a typically vegetarian way to experience simple but memorable pleasures – and so easy to prepare. The ‘wok master’ in the temple handled his wok in a way that was poetry in action, but we can all prepare this dish. If you use water instead of stock, the dish is quite suitable for vegetarians.

Ingredients

  • 50 g (2 oz) Chinese black mushrooms
  • 100 g (4 oz) button mushrooms
  • 225 g (8 oz) firm fresh beancurd
  • 450 ml (15 fl oz) groundnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoonlight soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoonShaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chilli bean sauce
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) Chicken Stock or water

Method

Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain them and squeeze out the excess liquid. Remove and discard the stems and finely shred the caps into thin strips.

Wash and slice the button mushrooms. Cut the beancurd into 2.5-cm (1-in) cubes. Drain on kitchen paper for 10 minutes.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, deep-fry the beancurd cubes in batches. Drain each batch on kitchen paper. Drain off all but tablespoons of the oil. When the beancurd is cool enough, slice each cube in half.

Re-heat the wok or large frying-pan with the reserved oil over a high heat until it is hot. When it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the spring onions and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add all the mushrooms and stir-fry for 2 minutes, mixing them well. Then add the soy sauces, Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, sugar, chilli bean sauce, pepper and stock or water. Turn the heat down and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the fresh mushrooms are thoroughly cooked. Add the beancurd and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Turn the heat back to high and continue to cook until most of the liquid has been evaporated. Transfer to a warm platter and serve at once.

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