Taipei, Taiwan: Another quiet day. Thank goodness too, as it was 109° in ye olde trailer park today. Dave played social-distanced (shouldn't it be called "anti-social"?) golf with the men's group at 8a, and was home before ten. Even the construction site next door was quiet.
Emails have been arriving all day from restaurants we usually would be patronizing stating they are open. Come on in! Dine on our shady patio! Full service menu and bar! We are not going anywhere (except the grocer). There are so many COVID-19 cases in the Coachella Valley; we will continue to hunker-down.
We are still not homeowners, and have given up the search for now. RV Parks are opening up, and are taking reservations. Most will be open by June 19th, so we may move to cooler climes. 109° is very hot in a fiberglass bus. It is a confusing decision. Even if we go to the California coast, or the Oregon coast, or to California wine country, the same issues will surround us: desiring to be masked/distanced, we will just do the same thing we do here, (not much) but hopefully in cooler weather?
I finally prepared the Mapo Tofu! It was so good and somehow it is good to eat really spicy food when it is hot? Redskin peanuts were our appetizer tonight - very Taiwanese.
We started with garlic spinach (only minced garlic and fresh spinach, sauteed in vegetable oil, and drizzled with soy sauce), and I also made the usual quick-pickled cucumbers (forgot to photograph), and steamed rice.
Dang, if this wasn't really delicious tonight, especially since I had a fresh jar of chili sauce from Taiwan.
This dish is vegetarian/vegan.
Not sure what was up with our living area air conditioner yesterday, because it is working perfectly today. A repair person has been scheduled. Maybe they need a little coil cleaning?
Just like I need a mani-pedi?
One dish we enjoyed immensely (and often) in Taiwan was Mapo Tofu - soft tofu warmed in a spicy sauce. Traditionally made with ground pork or beef, it was just as common to find this dish without meat and was/is very popular with vegetarians. The dish is pronounced maw-po-doe-fu in Mandarin.
Originating from the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan (Szechuan) province of China, Mapo Tofu has an interesting history. Translated roughly to "pock-marked mother tofu", mapo tofu was created by a woman with a terribly pock-marked face. She prepared her tofu fiery-hot, became infamous, and her tofu recipe was so popular, customers lined-up to place orders. It is still one of the most popular and common dishes found in Szechuan restaurants world-wide.
Look for chili bean paste in the Asian section of your supermarket. It can be also called doubanjiang or tobandjan, Ma La Sauce, or Sichuan Chile Sauce. Ingredients can include salted chili pepper, fermented soy bean paste, fermented broad bean paste, sugar, garlic and other spices. The sauce is thinner than peanut butter and will require a good stir.
Besides a pound of soft tofu, three little mise en place are required as the dish comes together quickly.
Four green onions are required - white and green parts separated. Use soft or medium tofu - the floating-in-a-tub of water variety. (Do not use Japanese "silken" tofu as it just too soft and could fall apart in this dish, and do not use extra-firm tofu in this recipe... too dry.) Rinse the tofu quickly under running water before cubing.
One pound soft or medium-firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
3 Tablespoons peanut (or canola/vegetable) oil
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I always use more)
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
4 green onions, white parts only, minced
Bowl #2: Mix well
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons chili bean paste
Bowl #3 - Garnish:
4 green onions, green parts only, sliced thin
Place the cubed tofu in a heat-safe bowl and carefully pour boiling water over until tofu is completely covered with water. Let the bean curd rest in the boiling water, uncovered, while the dish is prepared.
Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with oil, then add Bowl #1: ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns and minced white parts of the onions. Let this mixture wilt and stir often until the garlic and onion begin to brown, about three minutes.
Drain the tofu and carefully slide the drained bean curd into the skillet/wok. Gently toss. Give the (Bowl #2) sauce a good stir (to redistribute the cornstarch) before pouring it over the tofu in the skillet. Carefully, stir to coat well. Bring to a boil, and let the sauce simmer until it thickens, one or two minutes. Remove to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with (bowl #3) the green ends of the onions. Serve with rice.
Until my next update, I remain, your spicy correspondent.