Bear's Paw Bean Curd

This Szechuan specialty gets its name from the color of the browned tofu, which resembles a bear's paw. Instead of browning the tofu, you can also deep-fry it until it turns golden brown, or use premade deep-fried tofu (available at Asian grocery stores).

INGREDIENTS | SERVES 2

  • 2 cakes bean curd, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • 3½ tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • ⅓ cup sliced canned bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 tablespoon water or chicken broth, optional
  • 1 green onion, quartered
  1. Cut each block of bean curd diagonally into 4 triangles. In a bowl, sprinkle the salt over the triangles.

  2. Place the Chinese dried mushrooms in a bowl with hot water to cover. Soak the dried mushrooms for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are softened. Squeeze out the excess water and cut the mushrooms into thin slices.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the chicken broth, dark soy sauce, Chinese rice wine or dry sherry, and the sugar. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the water.

  4. Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat until it is nearly smoking and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the bean curd triangles. Stir-fry the bean curd, gently stirring and moving it around the pan, until it is golden brown on both sides (about 4 to 5 minutes). Remove from the pan.

  5. Heat 1½ tablespoons oil in the wok or skillet. When the oil is hot, add the ginger. Stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the dried mushrooms. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, adding a bit of water or chicken broth if the vegetables begin to dry out.

  6. Add the bean curd back into the pan. Add the sauce. Stir in the green onion. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, then add the cornstarch and water mixture, stirring to thicken.

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