Smells Like Grandpa’s Kitchen

Although I was young when Grandpa was still alive, I often have these random memories of him. For instance, I remember riding my tricycle in the living room when I was 4 (don’t all kids do that?) My brother was also in the room playing Nintendo, when I came extremely close to running over his hand. (Or maybe I did run it over…in that case, I’m so sorry Vin). Grandpa scolded me for a good 5 minutes, but after noticing my pathetically sad expression, he actually apologized for scolding me.

However some of the greatest memories I had of him involved his cooking. I remember that all of his dishes were fresh, simple, and comforting. Being a Hakka person, one of his signature dishes was tofu  stuffed with fish paste, known as “Yong Tau Fu”. Sounds odd, but actually tastes quite delicious. After stuffing the tofu with the paste, grandpa would pan fry it and top it off with a light oyster sauce. Alternatively, the tofu can be replaced by peppers or eggplants.

Grandpa Li's Fish Paste Stuffed Tofu - "Yong Tau Fu"


1 block soft or firm tofu (I used firm so it wouldn’t fall apart as easily)
Fish Paste (Sold in some Asian markets, or you can make your own)
3 Tablespoons Oyster sauce (or to taste)
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with water
1-2 T sugar or honey (or to taste)
Scallion to garnish

1. Slice the tofu into 8-12 cubes. Pat dry. Make sure they are not too small or else stuffing them will be difficult.
2. Spoon about 1 tablespoon’s worth of fish paste into the tofu
3. Coat a pan with olive or vegetable oil, and turn stove to high heat
4. When pan is hot, gently add tofu, making sure they are not crowded
5. Brown tofu on all sides, making sure to brown the fish paste on top as well! This is crucial because you have to make sure the fish is cooked all the way through. (With a bit of practice, your tofu flipping skills will improve, I promise.)
6. When tofu is browned and cooked through, place on plate and garnish with scallions

*note: all ingredient quantities are approximate, taste as you go

Mix the cornstarch with water and set aside
Add about 1/2 cup of water to hot pan, wait for it to gently bubble
Add 3 tablespoons oyster sauce to boiling water, mix until dissolved
Add sugar, and cornstarch mixture.
Taste and adjust as needed.

I served this with simple whole wheat noodles mixed with soy sauce, rice vinegar and a dab of sesame oil, and baby bok choy.


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