Szechuan Shredded Vegetables with Pressed Tofu

Last night I got off my butt and cooked something interesting for movie night. The recipe was generally well received although I learned that most people don’t share my affection for ginger. Anyway, I’m posting this recipe here for three reasons: Jess was considering making it, comments need to be added to the instructions, and I need suggestions for improving it.

First the (vegan) recipe:
Szechuan Shredded Vegetables with Pressed Tofu
from 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes

Makes: 5 12 cups; serves: 4 to 6 [Kay: 4 to 6 very, very, tiny people]

13 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or sherry
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups julienned carrots
2 cups julienned celery
1 cup julienned snow peas
12 cup julienned scallions (white and green parts)
2 cups julienned, pressed tofu
1 teaspoon sesame oil.

1. In a small bowl stir together the broth, soy sauce, mirin, and cornstarch; set aside.
2. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, 10 seconds.
3. Add the carrots celery, snow peas, and scallions; cook, stirring until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tofu; cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the soy mixture to the wok; cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened, about 1 minute longer. Stir the sesame oil.

Variation: Use julienned red or green bell peppers instead of - or in addition to - the snow peas.

Post Creation Thoughts:
First off this is an entree. The specified directions make 5 12 cups. There is no way in hell you can feed 4-6 people on 5 12 cups of anything. I doubled the recipe, served it with rice, and just had enough for 7. This is really easy to make but if you double the recipe, you pretty much have to, you should know that 6 cups of julienned carrots is a lot. You’re going to be julienning veggies for a while, and unless you’re going to get your guests to help, buy shredded carrots, and julienne everything else in advance.

Don’t bother julienning the tofu. Slice it, press it, throw it it. Whatever shape you cut it into is going to get broken apart with all the stirring. If you do the tofu in advance and let it sit in even more moisture will seep out to the bottom thus saving you from having to spend lots of time

The fourth instruction suggests stirring until the sauce is thickened. This means when you actually make the sauce your veggie broth has to be cold. Otherwise as soon as you add the corn-starch it starts to thicken immediately. Also, I think she’s smoking crack. There wasn’t nearly enough sauce for anything more than a thin coating so you’d never be able to tell if it was thickening or not. I doubled everything, but I’m thinking I should have quadrupled the sauce. It smells nice but it needs something. I’m thinking add sesame oil to this too.

Screw the celery. The celery adds nothing to except a little crunch. The only noteworthy comment about the celery was from someone who doesn’t normally like celery saying that he had no problem with it in this dish. I added julienned red bell pepper, next time I think I’ll forego the celery and just use the red bell pepper. Also, julienning scallions is not worth the effort; just cut them up normally, also you’ll get more surface area on your cuts which should bring out the flavor a little more.

The ginger: I added about 2 34 tablespoons of ginger for the doubled recipe (an extra 34). It was a bit much for people who weren’t ginger fans. I thought it was perfect and left your lips just barely tingly.

If you follow the official instructions you’ll end up with a bland thing-o-veggies that people don’t mind eating but aren’t going to be thrilled with. I like bland foods but with all the chopping I had to do it annoyed me, so I called in Miller to help spice it up. We added garlic powder, soy sauce, sesame oil. The latter two helped, I’m not sold on the garlic powder for this dish but it was a step in the right direction. My thoughts: more “soy mixture”, more sesame oil in that mixture, sesame seeds might be nice too. More red pepper flakes. I don’t like hot foods but there just weren’t enough in there to be worth bothering. Maybe a little bit more real garlic (not powder) the default amount doesn’t really stand out much I don’t think, and I actually added a little extra.

Mirin vs Sherry: I used mirin (should be wherever they hide the Asian foods in your supermarket), but couldn’t taste it. This was probably due to the fact that there just isn’t enough sauce in the default recipe IMNSHO.

The tofu had little to no flavor. Maybe let it sit in the soy mixture for a while before cooking, and/or throw it in for a minute after step 2

Wok, wok, wok. Don’t even attempt this without a wok. It’s a matter of sheer volume. If you don’t have a wok go get one. I don’t understand how people cook without them.