|Not just any yong tofu|
This dish was the de facto reunion dish. My dad, a bona fide hakka, would make pots of this which we ate from new year's eve into the new year. For days in a row, he would scrape meat out of yellow tail fish, mince it with a hand held meat grinder, blend it with fermented fish, minced pork and chopped water chestnuts and plaster it on tofu, bittergourds and bean puffs. Then he would cook a similarly huge vat of stock that comprised of leftover tofu meat, soya beans and fish bones. It was one of those dishes which we loved but hated by the third day.
We never realized how much we loved it until years later when he stopped making it , after we were all married. The hassle of preparing such a feast tired him and his yong tofu became a legend among his grandchildren. Based on my memories of how things were done, I 'resurrected' this culinary experience so that our kids would know what hakka yong tofu is like.
To cope with changing times and healthier eating, the fermented fish was omitted while the proportion of fish, pork and chestnut was worked out for optimum texture and flavor. It came out to be about by weight, 3 portions fish : 1 portion pork : 1/2 portion water chestnut. However, I have to admit that I generally have a weakness for water chestnuts and some years would go by when I made very crunchy yong tofu fillings.
For stock, I had no fish bones to talk about since the fish paste was bought from the market. I used chicken instead for the stock, which removes the possibility of fishy smelling stock. Not very authentic, but convenience supersedes tradition in this aspect.
|Fleshing out the tofu|
Filling bean puffs and tofu with the meat paste was one of the most time consuming part of the process, which I totally detested. I had recently found the joy of piping batter to make cookies and adopted this practice for piping meat paste into yong tofu ingredients. It was an interesting experience combining baking techniques for traditional food, therapeutic in fact.
|Pipe the meat paste into tofu pocket|
To seal the fillings on vegetables or tofu, paint over with a layer of corn starch solution. Dad used to fry everything so that they would keep well but I did this only for the bittergourd. This helps attach the meat to the vegetable as well as reduce the amount of bitter leeching into the soup later.
900g minced fish meat ( I get this premade from Chinatown market )
300 pork minced pork
150g raw water chestnuts
20 bean puffs, halved to make 2 triangular blocks
10 tofu,halved to make 2 rectangular blocks
1 small bitter gourd, cut across to 1/2 inch thick, pith intact but deseeded
5 red and green chillis, deseeded and halved
1 cup soya beans, soaked overnight
1 kampong chicken, skinned
6 litres of water
Corn solution for sealing meat
Prepare main ingredients. Remember to Not remove the pith of the bitter gourd so that the meat has something to anchor on.
Halve bean puffs and make a slit in the middle to make a pocket.
Halve tofu to 2 rectangular blocks . Flesh out the tofu on the cut surface to make a pocket.
Prepare chillis by deseeding the 2 halves.
Prepare meat paste. Peel and mince water chestnut. I like it chunky for texture and crunch.
Mix and combine fish, pork and chestnuts well. Since the fish comes seasoned with salt, I did not add any salt at this stage.
To fill ingredients with meat paste, transfer meat paste to a plastic bag and seal.
Snip off a corner of the bag and use it as you would like a piping bag.
Pipe meat paste into the bean puffs, tofu, bitter gourd and chillis.
To seal meat on bitter gourd, paint it with corn flour solution. Let dry.
To prepare the stock, combine chicken, soya beans, water and leftover tofu and boil for about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, heat a pot of peanut oil and fry bitter gourd until seared and meat adheres to main ingredient.
To cook, boil yong tofu before serving. Due to the presence of pork, always remember to cook the yong tofu well for safe consumption. Jazz up the final assembly with scallions or your favorite sauces.