Throughout the first half of my childhood, I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. For a couple summers, my sister and I would go to my friend Reema’s house every day while my parents were at work. At lunch time, her mom would lay down newspapers on the floor of the living room, where we ate hummus, stuffed grape leaves, pickled peppers, fried potatoes and tabbouleh. After lunch, her father and uncle would sit in the garage with their hookahs while we ran off to her dad’s Krauszers to grab a free choco taco or oatmeal cream pie. Good times.
We moved to a different town just before I entered the eight grade–a town where the teachers kept calling me Jennifer or Evaline (the only two other Asian 13-year-old girls within a twenty mile radius), and where, the first time I had dinner at a new friend’s house, I had a slice of cheese pizza, milk, and a Centrum vitamin for dinner. I’m not sure if it was the Centrum that did it, or maybe that tall glass of whole milk, but I started going through a My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding sort of anxiety about…well, a lot of things (uh…the time my grandpa went to the local sit-down pizza place with us, grabbed a butter knife and a slice of white broccoli, and shoveled cheese into his mouth like he was eating a bowl of rice. People stared. I died).
In that first year, when I was in I’m-the-new-kid-please-like-me mode, I was insecure–dare I say, embarrassed?–about the food that was being prepared daily for dinner at our house. No more tabbouleh at Reema’s, man. Friends would come over, and I would feel the need to request spaghetti or lasagna or something–anything but the tofu, the stir-fries, and the steamed fish that showed up nightly on our table.
I was Toula, eating moose caca while all the other blonde, delicate girls had wonder bread.
For the record, moussaka is delicious. Obviously.
I have particularly vivid memories about this spicy cold tofu dish (with thousand year old egg included), 13-year-old-me thinking–oh my god people probably think we’re so weird. It wasn’t until I got to high school and realized that my antisocial tendencies would probably prevent anyone from discovering we were tofu-eating weirdos anyway that I calmed down about the whole thing. And then in college, I had a Korean roommate, and she’d bring Korean blood sausage, kimchi, and pig’s feet from home. This pretty much kicked the insecurity for good.
I started making this dish a lot in my dorm room, because it doesn’t require any cooking. I’d just take the necessary ingredients out of the mini fridge, steal some scallions and garlic from the dining center, and keep tofu in the fridge. My roommate and I would steam some rice and eat this spicy cold tofu while watching Disney movies on VHS. And it wasn’t weird at all.
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon spicy bean paste (douban jiang)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped scallion
- 1 package silken tofu
- Optional: chopped Thai basil, chopped cilantro, chopped thousand year old egg (er…if you know what that is)
Put the soy sauce, bean paste, sesame oil, and sugar in a small bowl. Add half the garlic and half the scallions. Mix it all together. Slice the tofu and lay it in your serving bowl. Drizzle the sauce over it and garnish with the rest of the garlic and scallion on top. You can also garnish with a bit of chopped thai basil and/or cilantro. Mix it up and serve with rice as a side dish.
If you’re feelin’ crazy, you can add a chopped thousand year old egg in there, which is basically a preserved duck egg, often used in cold tofu dishes like this in China. I saw a girl literally tear up and almost barf trying to eat one of these on Fear Factor once. Big baby.
Take this from someone who resisted them for a long time…they’re actually pretty good. In any case, you can go egg-in or egg-out with this, your choice!
Serve this spicy cold tofu as an appetizer, side dish, or as a main dish with a bowl of hot rice!
Spicy Cold Tofu (Liangban Dofu)
- Put the soy sauce, bean paste, sesame oil, and sugar in a small bowl. Add half the garlic and half the scallions. Mix it all together.
- Slice the tofu and lay it in your serving bowl.
- Drizzle the sauce over it and garnish with the rest of the garlic and scallion on top. You can also garnish with a bit of chopped Thai basil and/or cilantro. You can also stir in a chopped thousand year old egg.