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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Hakka Yong Tofu

As far as I can remember, come Chinese New Year, my father would make this signature dish. It requires an entire day's effort since everything was made from scratch. When all the ingredients were ready, father would bring out his iron meat grinder, clamp in to the table edge  and feed the fish meat and pork into the opening with one hand and crank the handle with the other. After some squishy sounds, finely ground wormlike meat would appear from the little holes and drop onto a basin to catch the prepared meat. It was quite disgusting to see the meat squeeze through the holes.

Meanwhile mum would labour over the sink peeling and chopping the water chestnuts. Mum did not have great knife skills and the mountain of water chestnuts was a great deal of work on top of the spring cleaning for the season.

I hated the entire process because father was fastidious about everything, including how the meat should be stuffed in the tofu, bitter gourds and tofu skins.

Oddly enough, making this became a Chinese New Year ritual once I have a home of my own.  Now, I used a food processor to blitz the meat in place of the grinder (long gone to the rags and bone man). Fish paste and minced meat could be bought off the shelf and the tedious task of peeling the water chestnuts was normally left to Pat who has excellent knife skills and patience of a saint.

Then I discovered the piping bag. In place of a mini spatula, the piping bag makes piping of the meat-water chestnut mixture into the tiny cavities of tofu puffs and tofu child's play.

My updated Hakka Yong tofu became my nieces' and daughter's childhood memories....

It is near Chinese New Year again, so it is yong tofu time!

Fish paste is hard to find nowadays so I have to make it from scratch. I have tried making fish paste out of batang though ideally it should be wolf herring (sai toh fish, but there is none at the markets), so the yellow tail will suffice. That was also what my father used because it was easy on the wallet.

Any, this is the recipe for my Hakka YTF:

2 yellowtail, filleted
4 cups of minced pork
4 cups of water chestnuts, smashed to  course bits (I love the crunch)
10 medium sheets of tofu skins, 10 tofu puffs, 2 medium sized tofu

Equipment I used:
Food processor
Air fryer


Preparing the stuffing:

Peel the water chestnuts. Use a hammer and smash the  peeled chestnuts to course pieces. Use a food processor if you wish. Reserve.

Now for the fish; hold a short knife in a vertical position and scrap the meat off the fish skin. Discard skin and bones.
Blitz the fish in a food processor until it is chopped and come together. Reserve.

Season with a generous amount of  pepper and a few dash of sesame oil to the water chestnut-fish-pork mixture. 
In a big bowl, combine fish, pork and water chestnut well (I used the mixer). Reserve the stuffing.

Stuffing the meat:

Transfer the meat to a piping bag.
Make slits on the tofu puffs and pipe the stuffing into it.
Use a spoon to dig out a hole on the tofu. Pipe the stuffing onto the tofu.
On a lightly washed bean skin, pipe the meat on one end of the skin and roll up the meat.

Cooking the meat:
Oil all the items with a brush.
Air fry the items at 200C for 15 minutes or when until each item is brown.

Presenting the dish:

Prepare a pot of chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
Cook the stuffed tofu, puffs in medium heat for 5 minutes.
Blanch some greens. Serve the greens, tofu and puffs in soup. 
Serve the crispy stuffed bean skin separately.

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