How To Make Rice Tofu?
Rice Tofu is a classic from the Chinese southwest, and despite the name doesn’t contain a lick of soybean.
This is a rice product through and through – and while there is a ton of ways to eat this stuff, one of our all-time favorites is in the Guizhou style, smothered in a mountain of chili sauce.
Now, rice tofu is one of those dishes that was probably borne out of necessity.
How To Make Rice Tofu?
You see, in China, farmers are contracted to sell a portion of each rice crop to the chubeiliang [储备粮], the State granary system,
where it stays in case of famine for three years.
It’s a system that’s pretty much as old as the Chinese state is, dating all the way back to the start of the Qin dynasty.
But. Assuming no famines, at the end of those three years that rice will be a bit of a different beast than when it started.
See, as rice sits in storage, the grains start to form this thick skin making the rice harder, dryer, and less sticky when cooked.
Old granary rice is one of the cheapest prices you can buy at a Chinese market.
But sometimes – sometimes, that hard rice curse can also be a blessing.
For example, for Cantonese Cheong Fun [肠粉], the rice batter pretty much requires old rice in order to get it to its characteristic smooth, slippery texture.
Rice Tofu is also in that tradition – a way to transform that cheap granary rice into something truly special.
So right. I promise, there’s nothing really magic about the aging process – if you just happen to have some old rice from 2018 sitting there in the back of your cabinet, congratulations.
But for most of us, while I don’t think you’ll ever be able to find any old Chinese granary rice, what you can buy pre-aged is Basmati.
Prized in Indian cooking, and for this recipe, also works beautifully.
So. To 100 grams of aged Basmati rice, first toss in two grams of calcium hydroxide, that is, pickling lime together with a bit of water.
Pickling lime is the same stuff that’s used to make masa, and a quick three-hour soak here’ll help break down the grain and also give your rice tofu a nice bite to it in the end.
So then three hours later, the rice will be nice and yellow and the grains should be able to easily break apart in your fingers.
So then next, we’ll need to wash all that alkaline right off.
And with this step? You’ll really wanna do a bang-up job because any leftover lime’ll give your rice tofu a soapy, bitter taste in the end.
Just continue this process until the water runs completely clear, about ten times, then let it drain.
So next. Add your now-drained rice to a blender along with 250 milliliters of water, and blitz on high for 3 minutes, scraping
down the sides once or twice.
Then once your base there’s good and blended, it’s time to settle on your final rice tofu-water ratio.
You see, depending on the recipe, rice tofu is made with anywhere from a 2.5 to 1 water to rice ratio all the way up to 7.5.
Rice-heavy rice tofu, like the one here on the left, is firmer and a bit more ‘rice cake-y’, while the more water-heavy sort has a more jiggly tofu-like texture.
Totally up to you, but because of Steph’s undying love for all things jiggly for us today we’ll be adding another 500 mL of water in order to produce the latter.
Mix well, and it’s ready to cook.
So again, either way, to a saucepan toss in your rice batter and swap the flame to high.
Keep stirring this non-stop, and once the batter’s just started to begin to thicken, or about 50 degrees centigrade, swap your flame to medium-low.
Keep stirring your batter incessantly until the starch fully gelatinizes which should take about 15 minutes.
It’s very important to make sure that the starch here is fully cooked else your end product wind up mushy.
You’ll know it’s done one the batter is no longer mealy tasting and Steph’ll have a few more tips on how to judge doneness at the end of the video.
Then once you get to that point, pour it in a bowl, and leave that in the fridge for at least four hours or, alternatively, overnight.
So next day now, add a touch of water to the sides of your bowl to loosen it right up, remove, and slice your rice tofu into about
one inch sheets.
Then slice those sheets in half lengthwise, half again in the other direction, and stack those up to the sauce.
So right. The make the sauce then, this dish usually uses a 1:1 mix of two types of chilis oil – a Guizhou-style Youlajiao [油辣椒] chili sauce on the left, and a hongyou [红油] red chili oil on the right.
And while a quality version of the former is available internationally in the form of Lao Gan Ma’s Hot Chili in Oil, hongyou usually needs to be made at home.
And while we do have a recipe for the stuff up here, today we were feeling a bit on the lazy side and opted for a shortcut.
So. Shortcut. To a saucepan first toss in two tablespoons of oil – this was Sichuan caiziyou [菜籽油] but peanut would also work great – and heat that up until smoking.
Then, shut off the heat, and let that come down to about 180 Celsius, and add in two tablespoons of Lao Gan Ma Hot Chili.
Give that a good mix, pour it out, and – while not exactly the same -will be good enough for our purposes here I promise.
Then to that just toss in a tablespoon of soy sauce, half a tablespoon dark Chinese vinegar, a quarter teaspoon salt, eighth teaspoon sugar, and a pinch of MSG half teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder, and two cloves of minced garlic.
Mix that well and if you’re feeling fancy or making YouTube thumbnails like us first spoon the liquid around your rice tofu then
smother it with the solids sprinkle on a bit of chopped cilantro and scallion and with that, you’ve got yourself some Guizhou-style rice tofu.
So. It’s very important to be able to tell if the starch is cooked.
One way you can learn about it is, first – get about a teaspoon of cornstarch, mixing it with about two tablespoons of lukewarm, ~50C water… mix that well, taste it.
And remember that pasty, mealy texture.
And then take another teaspoon of cornstarch, toss it in with about three or four tablespoons of hot boiling water and the cornstarch will form into a transparent little ‘gloop’.
Take that gloop out, bite into it, and you will feel it’s kind of like chewy have some kind of resistance, but nothing like pasty or mealy.
And that’s what cooked starch should taste like.
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