Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you that something you’re feeding your kids is bad for them. Which is fine if your kids are good eaters and you have a host of food options from which to choose. My kids? Left to their own devices, they each eat like twelve foods. Maybe more like six, if you take away the fruit.
One of the things they will both eat, however, is tofu. They will eat every variety of tofu, from silken to pressed. They will eat it in soup, baked, pan fried, steamed, whatever. And that’s good because tofu has nutritious stuff in it, like vegetable protein.
Anyway, about the tofu. The latest word on tofu is that if you have boy children and they eat too much of it, they will grow breasts. Or something like that. Feel free to Google it—I haven’t, because, okay, I admit it, I’m scared of where “tofu man breasts” will lead me on Google Images. I’ve been afraid of Google Images ever since I Googled “genital warts.” Not that you believe me, but I don’t have genital warts and neither does Tom. I was just curious.
Besides, I have my own thoughts on the latest fear-mongering over tofu, and those thoughts are similar to my thoughts on MSG. Let me just point out that the Chinese have been around for a really long time. And I don’t know any Chinese people who complain about MSG headaches. I also don’t know any Chinese men with breasts.
Well, wait a minute. I know a few Chinese men with breasts, but they’re fat all the way around, and I’m sorry, if you’re a fat man you’re likely to have breasts regardless of your race or how much tofu you ingest. If you need further scientific evidence that it’s ok to eat tofu, I ate a shit ton of tofu growing up and I’m flat as a goddamned board.
I guess what I’m really railing against is food hysteria in general. We all want to eat healthy. I try to make good choices, and make good choices for my children. But for me, food is not just about sustenance. Food is about taste, memory, pleasure, warmth, happiness. I enjoy nothing more than this loaf of bread with a crock of good butter. Eating bread reminds me of when I was a kid, tucked into my window seat on a rainy day, reading about Heidi and her grandpa and their goats and their tasty milk and cheese.
Nowadays, I feel guilty when I eat bread. And that guilt drives me to eat my croissants in the car like I’m some perv, or worse, to forgo the croissant entirely in favor of “healthy” pap like gummy, reconstituted granola. I dunno. I’m going to die of something, and I sort of doubt it’ll be the bread.**
So about that tofu. I like stir-fries because your kid can help with the washing and chopping. This delicious little stir-fry (you can sub shrimp if tofu is not your thing) makes my family happy. It’s a little spicy but even Tate will eat it, and shamefully, he thinks black pepper is spicy. Also, you might as well prepare your kids’ palates for the global Chinese domination that is coming.
Thanks to the sauce in this stir-fry, my kids will (accidentally) eat the mushrooms, water chestnuts, and green onions in the recipe. Shiitakes, not the benign kind of mushroom. Hot damn! I guess I’m ok risking two tiny sets of man boobs for that.
**I’m aware that certain people, like those with Celiac Disease, can actually die of bread consumption. I’m not making light of bread eating, except as it applies to me.
MA PO TOFU
Adapted from “Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking”
3 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (if dried, soak in warm water for 20 minutes), de-stemmed and chopped
6 oz. ground pork
1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon hot bean paste, black bean sauce, bean chili sauce, or chili garlic sauce (one of these should be available in the “ethnic foods” aisle—we’re getting ethnic, people!—of your grocery store. If you have a choice, go for the bean chili sauce)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts
1 14-oz. package soft (or silken, or Japanese style) tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths
2 teaspoons cornstarch (dry)
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1. Marinate the pork: stir the ground pork, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce together, let stand 10 minutes.
2. Make the sauce: stir 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl with the sesame oil and one cup water. Set aside.
3. Chop the water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions, throw them all in bowl and set aside. Get your chopped garlic ready. Make sure your tofu is cut and drained. You want everything chopped before you start a stir-fry, because the actual cooking takes like 4 minutes.
4. Heat a wok, skillet, or cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and stir fry until fragrant, mybe 20 seconds. Add the pork, whatever bean/chili paste or sauce you are using, and stir fry until the pork is crumbly, 2-3 minutes.
5. Pour the sauce into the pan along with the cut vegetables (water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions). Slide in your tofu, stir gently or swirl the pan to get the tofu coated with the sauce. Let simmer until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Don’t freak out if your soft tofu starts to break apart. Just be as gentle as you can.
6. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook gently, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. If you don’t care if your sauce is runny, you can omit this step.
7. Take off heat. Serve over hot brown rice!