tofu summer salad and home-made lu wei

I am still struggling through the whole fructose-friendly thing — the difference to my energy levels is so huge that it remains worth it. Over the winter I did cheat a fair bit by eating wheat or sugar in the evenings once I was safely home and could deal with the sleepiness and GI side-effects.

But now it’s summer! and the evenings are long and light and I don’t want to lay at home clutching my stomach. Neither can I bear to eat my same two “safe” meals (which are chicken and potatoes, or tuna and white rice) any longer. Now I’m on break from uni, I have more time to think about cooking and to actually prepare dinners and work lunches. I also really miss Taiwanese luwei 滷味, of which I have documented my love previously.

Luwei is generally translated as “brine” and its primary component is the spice mix of star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, basil, and bay leaves, which are all A-OK on a fructose-free diet. I was worried how I would get the spice mix right, but my Taiwanese friend Arthur informed me that you can pick up 滷味包 from any Asian grocery, which I did eventually after befriending the shop-owners who had to find it for me.

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I also picked up three kinds of tofu because, as you may remember, I am a tofu addict.
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There are instructions on the back of the box to add 8 cups of water, 2 tbsp of sugar, 3/4 tbsp of MSG, 3/5 tbsp of salt, 5 tbsp of soy sauce, and a small amount of cooking wine. The instructions also specify onion, garlic and chilli can be added, but Buddhists can leave them out. I’d forgotten Chinese Buddhists can’t have any of that stuff either (or mango, according to some sources!) — very convenient for me though, as I don’t have to feel like a loser by leaving half the ingredients out. I used raw sugar rather than rock candy which is the traditionally-used sweetener. I also only used 4 teaspoons of soy sauce because really? Really do you need that much soy sauce? I don’t think so.

Put all of the above into a big pan, preferably one that can fit a sieve, or find a sieve-like utensil. In Taiwan everything gets lobbed into a basket which makes it much easier to do multiple people’s luwei at once, but the truth is, a sieve also makes things much easier even alone at home.
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Once it has boiled for a while and is suitably fragrant (很香!) you can add your selection of ingredients. I decided on rice noodles, tofu puffs and bok choy (the tofu skin sticks have to be soaked for a few hours first, so I’ll be eating them for dinner I expect).
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It was a bit tricky getting everything out of the pot, but I got there in the end. And….
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THUMBS UP. GOOD STUFF. My new favourite dinner. Sorry about the dirty-looking bowl, I was just in a hurry to get it all in my mouth.

As I was feeling creative and I also had that pack of fresh shredded tofu skin, I made this salad and it’s kind of fusion… maybe Italian-Taiwanese? 100% delicious A++++ will be making this all summer. Ingredients and directions are below.
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(Again, please forgive messy kitchen bench behind. That’s quinoa sprinkled everywhere behind it).

Take a fairly large shallow bowl (as in don’t use a Chinese rice bowl) and pour in a splash of soy sauce. Add in a splash of garlic-infused olive oil. Take a smidge of Massaman curry paste and add a splash of water before mixing everything together.

Grab a handful of chilled shredded tofu and untangle as it tends to clump, then lovingly coat it with the dressing. Finely chop cucumber, tomato and fresh mint and mix it all together. Voila!

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