Red cooking is a traditional Chinese cooking technique from the Shanghai area in which meat is stewed in a mixture of soy sauce, shaoxing, and spices for hours. The aroma of red cooking is one I always associate with my grandmother’s kitchen and has continued to be one of my fondest culinary memories.

This recipe for red cooked tofu I started making while I was dating a vegetarian, but I still like it. Since we are stewing fried tofu, this dish need only be cooked long enough for the flavors to be absorbed by the tofu. Unlike sneff’s marvelous master stock (a recipe for red cooking meats), this recipe makes a flavorful gravy suitable for putting over rice.

  1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil and pour over the chinese black mushrooms to reconstitute them.
  2. Cut tofu into ¼ inch slices and set on a dish towel to dry.
  3. With the flat of a knife, smash the garlic cloves, the ginger root, and 4 green onions. Place these in a large saucepan with the red chili peppers.
  4. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, shaoxing, and sugar to the saucepan.
  5. Remove the reconstituted mushrooms from the liquid. Pour the mushroom liquid into the saucepan. Trim the tough feet of the mushrooms away from the caps. Slice each mushroom in half.
  6. Pour a ¼ inch of oil into a frying pan and fry the tofu slices to a golden brown.
  7. Bring the saucepan to a boil. Place the fried tofu in the sauce, and reduce to a simmer. Hold at simmer for 30-60 minutes.
  8. Slice the remaining 2 green onions into tiny rounds. Reserve to garnish the dish.
  9. Remove the tofu to a serving bowl. Pour about 1 tablespoon sesame oil over the tofu. Remove the boiled garlic, ginger, green onions, and chili peppers from the sauce and throw them away.
  10. Place the mushrooms into the sauce and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  11. Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the tofu, sprinkle with green onions, and serve.

Sometimes I add tree ear mushrooms to this dish as well. Just chop the tree ears into bite-size pieces once it’s reconstituted.

I generally serve this dish with steamed brown rice and a stir-fried vegetable, like bok choi or celery; this would be enough for 2-3 people. For 4-5 people, add another dish, perhaps Emerald Chicken.

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