I've never been a big fan of Chinese food, probably due to bad restaurant experiences. ("Do your egg rolls contain meat?" "No...just a little pork for flavor.") I actually worked at a Chinese restaurant for a brief time in college, delivering food. While I made great tips (why do people feel compelled to tip so much better for Chinese food than pizza?), it definitely put me off the food, because there was meat hidden in everything.
On my first trip to Boston a couple months ago, I was happy to hear about a vegan Asian restaurant called Grasshopper. I loved the tofu and broccoli dish I ordered. I said I would eat Chinese food more often if there was a restaurant like this in my neighborhood. I never thought about trying to make it myself.
But Tony really likes a good stir-fry. So when I saw that Vegan on the Cheap contained a Better-Than-Takeout Tofu Stir-Fry recipe, I decided to give it a try. I followed the steps, not really thinking about the outcome. In the end, I was surprised to realize it looked just like the tofu broccoli thing I had in Boston. It tasted like it, too!
The sauce has a sweet-and-sour citrusy flavor. Coating the tofu in cornstarch before pan-frying it gives it a crispy texture. Steaming the veggies first and throwing them into the sauce at the end means that they don't sit in the sauce for too long and get soggy. These are simple steps, but the result is fantastic.
I didn't have any sesame oil, so I substituted peanut. I also left out the Asian chili paste so it wouldn't be too hot for Jackson. This was a good choice, because he ate it up and asked for more. Now I know how to get him to eat his broccoli!
This recipe was a little more labor-intensive than the other VotC recipes I've tried, what with prepping and steaming the veggies, frying the tofu, making the rice. But it wasn't difficult at all. I think it just seemed to take longer because I was feeling so scatterbrained at first. Olivia had broken out with a bad facial rash, and she was scratching her little cheeks and looking all red and miserable. So Tony had her at the doctor's office while I was watching Jackson and making dinner. (It turned out to be an allergic reaction to Aquaphor -- I had no idea this was possible.) I was glad I had my cooking to focus on, so I wouldn't worry too much while she was at the doctor's. I don't know about you but being in the kitchen really does relax me. It's like meditating -- you get so focused on one thing, like chopping the broccoli just right, you forget about other things on your mind.
And when you're done, you get the best Chinese food you ever ate. Not bad!