Monday, February 27, 2012

Shredded Bean Curd Salad with Celery & Carrots (Liang Ban Gan Su)

Bean curd shreds are, in and of themselves, a pretty healthy ingredient - low fat, low cal, low sodium, no cholesterol or trans fats. But (surprise, surprise) they are also incredibly bland. A great way to spruce up the flavor of bean curd shreds is to toss them with shredded carrots, celery, sesame oil, chili oil (layu) and a touch of soy - a fairly ubiquitous and commonplace Chinese appetizer/salad dish in Taiwan (and even here in SoCal), although I don't believe it's Taiwanese in origin. I've heard that this is actually a Shanghainese dish, but still trying to confirm. Google search and Mom haven't yielded any useful info on that front. 

So, I tried my hand at making this dish a couple days ago, adapting a recipe from Pei Mei's Chinese Cooking Volume II  (she's basically Taiwan's equivalent to Julia Child). The difference between my recipe and hers is that I didn't add baking soda to the water to blanch to bean curd shreds, I briefly blanched the carrots rather than salting them, included a couple sliced red jalapeños, added a little more sesame oil than called for, and also a splash of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, grated garlic and chopped scallions (not called for). Super easy, very little prep time, and tastes like it should. 

16 oz (2 8-oz. pkgs. of shredded bean curd (aka shredded white tofu))

2 red jalapeño or Fresno chile peppers seeded and sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
1 scallion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 bunch of Chinese celery, lower stalks only (no leaves), cut into 2" sections (ok to use regular celery, which is thicker than Chinese celery - just cut about 3 stalks into 2" sections and then slice each section into thin strips)

1 tbsp. chili oil (Layu)
2 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Fill a medium stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the bean curd shreds and cook 3-5 minutes. Using tongs, remove them to a colander and rinse briefly with cold tap water. Drain well and place in a large bowl. 

2. Bring water from the same pot back up to boil and blanch the celery shreds about 10 seconds. Remove to a colander and rinse with cold tap water. Drain well and set aside. 

3. Bring the water back up to a boil and blanch the shredded carrots for 10 seconds. Remove to a colander and rinse with cold tap water. Drain well and set aside.

4. For the dressing, combine the chili oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and grated garlic in a small bowl.  

5. Add the dressing to the bean curd shreds and gently toss to combine. Stir in the carrots, celery, sliced chiles, chopped scallion and cilantro.

6. Place the mixture into a shallow casserole (this will spread the bean curd shreds out so they will soak up the dressing better). Ok to serve immediately, but tastes better the next day (cover and refrigerate if not serving right away).

Shredded bean curd, blanched and rinsed with cold tap water. 

Sliced red jalapeno and Chinese celery. Chinese celery has much thinner stalks than regular celery. You can sub with regular celery - just cut them down to size.

Got this inexpensive but nifty tool at the 99 Ranch Market. Not something you'll find at Vons, Ralphs, or Albertsons. It shreds root veggies like the carrots as seen below. You can also use a mandoline to do the same thing.

Cool, eh?

The shredded bean curd typically comes in 8-oz packages in the refrigerated sections of most Chinese markets and is otherwise known as "shredded white tofu." 

Chili oil (Layu), sesame oil & soy sauce.

Blanch the celery in boiling water for 10 seconds.

Remove to a colander and rinse with cold water.

Blanch the shredded carrots in boiling water for 10 seconds. 

Remove to colander and run under cold water.

Toss shredded bean curd, celery, carrots, red jalapeno and seaonings together in a bowl.



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  2. I did use baking soda to blanch the strips. It improves the texture, making it more noodle-like. Plus it fizzes like crazy when the baking soda is added to the near-boiling water. Rinse in cold water right away. Don't let it sit too long with the baking soda water...the strips will reconstitute and turn into tofu. It's not a loss but won't be good for stir fry but can be added to soups just before serving. Working on trying to figure out the chemical reaction. Lol! Think it has something to do with the baking soda reacting to the coagulant, calcium sulfate.

    Thanks for this!!!!