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Turkey Tofu

Turkey Tofu

Turkey and tofu. I know what you’re thinking: two boring flavors, together at last. This spicy Szechuan dish will change your mind. It’s very similar to mapo tofu, but without the black beans. It’s easy to make, and after you try it once, you’ll be craving it again.

It’s fair to say that I do most of the cooking in our house, but my fiancé came to the party with a small, but excellent set of dishes she has perfected. Turkey Tofu is one of those dishes, and it’s become a staple in our house. It was a staple in her family before we ever met, and the greasy, beat-up copy of The Chinese Cookbook is proof. Set it on the table, and it automatically falls open to the recipe for Spicy Pork & Bean Curd, the ancestor of Turkey Tofu. In our copy, “pork” is crossed out, and “beef” is written in by hand, but my fiancé swears it’s been made with ground turkey since day one. Who am I to argue?

Pork, beef, or turkey?

Pork, beef, or turkey?

Turkey Tofu
- serves 4 to 6 -

2 14 oz. packages of firm tofu
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 Tbsp. chili paste with garlic
1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
2 Tbsp. finely minced garlic
3/4 C. chicken broth
1 tsp. ground, toasted Szechuan peppercorns
1/3 C. minced scallions, green part only.
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
Chopped cilantro for garnish.

Turkey Tofu Ingredients

Turkey Tofu Ingredients

1. Mix the ground turkey, chili paste, dark soy suace, and sugar, and set aside to marinate.

2. Bring a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt. Boil the 2 blocks of tofu for 4 minutes. Drain and cool.

3. When the tofu is cool, cut it into 1 inch cubes.

4. In a wok or large skillet, heat the tablespoon of oil. The original recipe calls for 1/4 C of oil, which is simply unnecessary. You can even just use a generous coat of spray oil.

5. Add the turkey and chili paste mixture and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly to break the meat up.

6. Add the ginger and garlic, stir, and cook for 30 more seconds.

7. Add the chicken broth and cook for another minute.

8. Add the tofu and stir gently, trying not to break it up too much. Cook for two minutes, then mix in the Szechuan peppercorns and scallions.

9. Mix the cornstarch and water. Add the mixture to the wok, give it a quick stir, and let the dish cook just until the sauce thickens from the starch.

10. Transfer to a platter for serving and drizzle the sesame oil over the top.

Serve with rice or noodles. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro on top.

Szechuan Peppercorns

Szechuan Peppercorns

The Szechuan peppercorns are the key to this dish. Apparently, they were illegal in the U.S. for a while, but you can get them at Asian grocery stores now. Sometimes they’re labeled as “Chinese prickly ash.” They start as little red berries. Toast them in a dry skillet for a minute or two until they turn dark brown, just shy of burnt. Then grind them in a spice or coffee grinder. Like any spice, they’re best right after you toast them, but you can toast and grind a few tablespoons and keep the leftovers in an airtight container. After you’ve made the dish a few times, you’ll probably end up using more than a teaspoon every time any way. We use nearly triple!

The Chinese Cookbook

Speaking of Asian groceries, one of my favorite aspects of this dish is the cookbook it comes from. First published in 1972, it’s loaded with helpful suggestions, like finding esoteric ingredients such as ginger and tofu in Chinese markets or by mail order. How far we’ve come.

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