Eat/Drink

Shredded tofu and shiitake stir-fry: Bright with plenty of bite

Chillies, mushrooms, garlic and ginger make this grated tofu stir-fry deeply flavoured but soft. — Picture by Andrew Scrivani/The New York TimesChillies, mushrooms, garlic and ginger make this grated tofu stir-fry deeply flavoured but soft. — Picture by Andrew Scrivani/The New York TimesNEW YORK, Oct 28 — I thought I had run the gamut of tofu techniques. I’ve stir-fried it, simmered it into stews and soups, puréed it into mousses and dressings. I’ve baked it, grilled it, sautéed it, kebab-ed it, ground it up into chilli and even eaten it raw, doused in a soy vinaigrette.

But until very recently, I had never shredded it, only because the thought hadn’t occurred to me.

I got the idea from the excellent new book “Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel,” by Heidi Swanson of the website 101 Cookbooks. She sautés the shredded tofu in olive oil with pumpkinseeds, pea greens and a little buttermilk, which sounds like a nearly instant and delightful summer meal.

Chillies prepared for use in a tofu stir-fry, in New York October 8, 2015. — Picture by Andrew Scrivani/The New York TimesChillies prepared for use in a tofu stir-fry, in New York October 8, 2015. — Picture by Andrew Scrivani/The New York TimesFor this recipe, I took the basic premise and swerved it in a more autumnal, mushroomy direction. Lemongrass and lime juice added brightness, while chilli, garlic and ginger lent bite. And in the same way that Swanson uses pumpkinseeds for a textural contrast, I stirred in some shelled, cooked edamame. They gave the dish less of a crunch, but I liked the added vegetable matter, and the bright green colour did wonders to perk up the beige-ness of the tofu and mushrooms.

One of the most liberating things about stir-frying shredded tofu, as opposed to tofu cubes or wedges, is that you’re not trying to brown it. The goal is a fluffy, downy mound that’s deeply flavoured but soft; think of scrambled eggs or spaetzle. The idea is to heat the tofu and integrate it with the sauce, but it won’t be in the pan long enough for you to worry about its sticking.

This dish gets its caramelised, browned flavour not from the tofu, but from the shiitake mushrooms, which I let cook until golden-edged and crisp. This will take about 10 minutes, but it is time well spent in terms of the complexity of the final dish, so don’t stint on it.

Even with the added mushroom browning time, this dish comes together quickly enough to make it a weeknight staple And if you’re not a mushroom lover, feel free to adapt the ingredients. Baby greens would make a fine substitute and need only about a minute of cooking time rather than 10. In any case, make sure to have everything chopped and ready to go before you turn on the heat. Dinner will be done before you know it.

Shredded tofu stir-fry, in New York October 8, 2015. — Picture by Andrew Scrivani/The New York TimesShredded tofu stir-fry, in New York October 8, 2015. — Picture by Andrew Scrivani/The New York TimesShredded Tofu and Shiitake Stir-Fry

Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 (15-ounce) package firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing or dry sherry

Juice of 1/2 lime, plus lime wedges for serving

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil

7 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced (4 cups)

1/4 cup sliced scallion

1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, outer leaves removed, inner core finely chopped (optional)

1 (1-inch) knob of ginger root, grated

1 large garlic clove, grated

1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

Salt, as needed

1/2 cup shelled edamame (defrosted if using frozen)

1/4 cup chopped soft herbs, such as cilantro, chives or basil

Preparation:

1. Using the coarse holes of a box grater, shred the tofu. Spread tofu out on a clean kitchen towel to drain while you prepare the sauce and mushrooms.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, Shaoxing, lime juice and sesame oil.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until it’s very hot, then add the peanut oil; it should thin out on contact. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are browned and slightly crisp, 8 to 12 minutes. Stir in the scallion, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

4. Carefully transfer the tofu from the towel into the skillet. Toss in the edamame and the soy sauce mixture. Cook until mixture is heated through. Season with salt as needed. Remove from heat and stir in herbs. Serve with lime wedges. — The New York Times

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