Ingredient of the Month 1: Dried Beancurd Sticks
This month it's dried beancurd sticks (Fu Zhu), which we sometimes pick up from one of the Chinese Supermarkets in town. Last Saturday, determined to get even with my husband for the lovely vegan pasta bake* he had made me the night before (competitive? moi?), I was intending to get some fresh tofu for the stirfry to end all stirfries, but they were sold out so I went straight for this old favourite...
Est. Percent of Calories from:
Beancurd sticks are about 22% protein, compared to firm tofu at 10%, but when rehydrated they are probably less. A more useful comparison might be to cooked dried chickpeas at 23% or peanuts at 23.7%. They are also rich in calcium and iron.
Origins: As you may well guess, beancurd sticks feature in Chinese and far Eastern cookery. They are not actually dried tofu but are made by skimming off the skin that forms on boiling soya milk and drying it. The sticks (as opposed to sheets- yuba- which can be rehydrated and used to make vegetable parcels/ dim sum or "tofu chicken") are often used as a meat substitute in broths.
Suggestions: The kids have fond memories of the camping trips we used to go on in France and Spain. As they are light to carry, non-perishable and easy to cook, we would often take beancurd sticks along. I remember in particular one overnight stop we made on a country roadside just south of Orleans. Although tired from the journey, as we emerged from the van to stretch our legs the sunset was catching the avenue of poplar trees and I felt like we had walked straight into a Van Gogh painting! Cooked on a camping stove with some home-grown potatoes and courgettes, herbs and seasonings and a tin of tomatoes, those beancurd sticks made a memorable meal. They're great for one-pot wonders! Last Saturday's stir fry was good too- with assorted veg and noodles and lashings of soy sauce and garlic-free five-spice- it did look disturbingly like chicken though. Midweek I added the last of the sticks to some mixed vegetables and spinach sweated with rogan josh seasoning (powder, not paste- and do check the ingredients of ready-prepared masalas for onion and garlic) served up with plain basmati rice. This is super quick and easy, as long as you soak the beancurd sticks while you are preparing the vegetables so that they are already soft when you add them to the pan. This applies to the stir-fry too. Or how about some veg and noodle broth, perhaps based on miso, with broken-up beancurd sticks in it? I haven't made that one yet, but I'll post it when I do... my "Ingredient of the month" is already giving me some fresh ideas- hope it works for you too!
* See post 6.10.11