After all our indulgences over the weekend, I was looking forward to a low-key vegetarian meal or two, so again turned to my new The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island cookbook from Cathy Erway. Imagine my surprise when I saw her Five-Flavor sauce included ketchup. The "five flavors" are a very important aspect in Chinese cooking, where sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy elements compliment each other to achieve perfect harmony on the tongue and in the belly. These five elements are also present in Chinese Five Spice powder - usually as cinnamon, star anise, clove, ginger and Sichuan pepper.
Ms. Erway's recipe was for the Five-Flavor Sauce to be served over steamed white fish. I had some very nice pressed tofu which I knew would also work well with the sauce. But ketchup? How could a tomato-based sauce taste like Taiwan?
Once, about 25 years ago, Mary asked me to pick up her son, Chris, from kindergarten and babysit for the afternoon. Mary probably had an appointment or something... can't recall. What I do recall is going to a McDonald's drive-through and getting a happy meal for Chris on the way to our house. This is where the trouble began. There was no ketchup in the bag. There was no ketchup in my fridge. There was no ketchup. No ketchup. No French fry dipping! Poor little guy could barely eat his meal. I felt terrible, but we are just not users-of-ketchup. (I can happily report, Chris recovered from this life-altering incident, earned an engineering degree from Purdue, is employed and happily married.) I am going to assume there is always a bottle of the red stuff in their fridge.
The Five Flavor Sauce recipe includes ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, water, fresh ginger, fresh red chilies, garlic, cilantro and green onion. The only thing missing from my larder was the ketchup.
I know. We are weird.I made the sauce and with one taste realized it was Taiwan. Cathy Erway nailed it. The pressed tofu was cubed and browned in peanut oil, then the sauce was poured over and served in a bowl with jasmine rice. Five Flavor Sauce with tofu
The dish contained a perfect balance of the five flavors and I can't wait to try it over steamed white fish.
There is a bottle of ketchup in our fridge now.
Until my next update, I remain, your surprised correspondent.
RV PARK: The Motorcoach Country Club