For some, the foods that bring up memories of childhood include boxes of Hamburger Helper and frozen Costco lasagnes, but not for me. I consider myself incredibly lucky that my mom made all our dinners from scratch. She made an enthusastic foray into the world of Chinese cooking, so a lot of our grocery shopping trips included a detour to the Asian market. I always felt so exotic perusing the aisles of seaweed snacks and tanks full of live fish, even though I was just in the dreary Portland suburbs.
This is by far the most-used recipe out of my mom’s Sunset Chinese Cook Book. The page it’s on is now so covered with oil splatters and scribbled notes that it’s a bit challenging to read. When I was feeling particularly nostalgic, I had her e-mail me the recipe (which she had heavily modified over the years), but I couldn’t find it last night when I really wanted this for dinner. So I winged it with what was in the fridge, and it turned pretty close to the dish we always just called “tofu-broccoli-mushroom-noodles.”
The mirin (the original recipe called for Chinese rice wine, which I can’t find) and oyster sauce really bring out the flavor of the mushrooms and give the whole dish an earthy sweetness. I used some basic Korean wheat noodles, but I seem to remember my mom using somen noodles (and I think chow mein noodles would work well too). Make sure you press all the liquid out of the tofu, because it gives it a much more appealing texture and helps it absorb more of the flavor from the sauce.
(adapted from Sunset Chinese Cook Book)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 block firm tofu, pressed and cut into thin, bite-sized rectangles
16 white button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp mirin
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (available at Asian markets0
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
8 ounces somen noodles
Steam the broccoli over simmering water until crisp-tender. It will soften up a little when it cooks later, so you don’t want it to end up mushy. Set aside.
Stir together the broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and corn starch and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high, and add the tofu, stirring occasionally for a few minutes or until golden. Add the mushrooms and mirin, and stir fry for about 3 minutes. Add the sacue and cook for about 1 minute, then add the broccoli and stir well. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the sauce thickens.
Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, then arrange on a platter and top with the tofu mixture (or just toss everything together in a bowl).