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Thursday, June 17, 2010

3 Cups Tofu 三杯豆腐

Tofu 4

Tofu 11
I believe the best 3 Cups Chicken (三杯鸡) I've had to date was prepared in Taiwan. My Taiwanese colleague had told me that every Taiwanese restaurant would most definitely have this dish on their menu. A restaurant which does not serve 3 Cups Chicken is not an authentic Taiwanese restaurant. Indeed, the Taiwanese have mastered this so well, that you can order almost anything to be cooked in this manner. In addition to the chicken, I've had 3 Cups Frog Legs (三杯田鸡), 3 Cups Eel (三杯鳗鱼), 3 Cups Eggplant (三杯茄子) and my favourite of all, 3 Cups Tofu (三杯豆腐).

The 3 Cups in the recipe denotes equal portions of Sesame Oil, Soya Sauce and Chinese Rice Wine. The Soya Sauce imparts the taste to the dish while the sesame oil and rice wine seduce the palate and senses with their heady fragrance... hence, very often, one is already sold by the warm, comforting smell even before tasting it. The single main ingredient in the dish is fried with all 3 cups of liquid and left to absorb the flavour over strong fire braising until all the liquid dries up and the whole dish tether dangerously at the brink of being burnt. In Taiwan, a 4th intoxicating element is added to the dish and that is Basil leaves (九层塔). The herbal infusion is so addictive that I have come to decide that any 3 Cups dish prepared without Basil leaves is just not right.

Tofu 10

I have never cooked any 3 Cups dishes and would not have been motivated to do it if not for seeing a recent post by 3 Hungry Tummies.(and yes, she used Basil Leaves!) Instead of using Chicken, I decided to try my hand at doing this with Tofu. A little more challenging because Tofu unlike meat dishes, will take longer to absorb flavours. The best 3 Cups Tofu dishes I've had in Taiwan are the ones that manage to draw in the flavours (入味).

Hence armed with the basics from 3 Hungry Tummies' post, I proceeded to prepare my Tofu dish. My Tofu had alot of flavour but I suspect that I could have chosen the wrong Tofu for this dish. Using pressed Tofu (板豆腐) , this is firmer and not as smooth. The Tofu I remembered from Taiwan was softer in the center. I am now thinking, if I had used Silken Tofu, I will end up with a Tofu that would be softer in the center. Well no full marks for this attempt but at least I had the heady fragrance envelope the whole neighbourhood - my neighbour actually knocked on my door and asked me what I was cooking.... (smile)

Tofu 7(100)
Recipe :

Tofu                 1 Square cut into cubes

Garlic               8 cloves
Spring Onions  4 stalks (with bulb) cut into 5cm length
Ginger              3cm slices
Basil Leaves     1 cup

Light Soya Sauce            3 tbsp
Sesame Oil                     3 tbsp
Chinese Rice Wine          3 tbsp
Sugar                              1/4 tsp
Water/ Chicken stock      1 cup


1. Deep fry tofu cubes in oil at 160C to get nice brown crispy skin.
2. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat up a wok to smoking. Add sesame oil. Fry garlic, and ginger briefly until fragrant. Add Tofu, Soya Sauce,and sugar. Fry over high heat for 1 min.
4. Add water/chicken stock. Continue to fry until half of the liquid is evaporated. Add wine,spring onions and cover. Braise until liquid is almost dry. Add in Basil leaves and stir fry quickly and dish out.

Tofu on Foodista


Quinn said...

Shirley, I think they look good. Maybe I live under the rock but I've not heard of 3 cups Tofu, hehe! I think if you use silken tofu, it would be a Mapo San Pei Tofu!!!!!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Quinn, no lah, it won't become Mapo San Pei lah. Once deep fried, the silken tofu will have a crispy skin and a soft center..:)

3 hungry tummies said...

The dish looks fantastic! I think using white tofu is best best first fried it first. Add some water after adding the 3 cups so the tofu can be braised a little longer. :)
Thanks for the shout and I am a he haha!

3 hungry tummies said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Alamak, 3 Hungry Tummies - Sorry Sir, I truly didn't realise :P

zurin said...

very appetizing looking dish. Ive never heard of 3 cups anything either...this is a first. It must have smelt amazing for ur neighbour to knock on the door!:)

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

I love 三杯雞, too!! One of my faves of all time! But, I haven't come across such 三杯-inspired dishes like 三杯茄子 and 三杯豆腐!! And yes, I HAVE TO use 九層塔 in my 三杯 dishes too! I just feel like it likes that something when the herb is missing ... I remember when I was in the States, I lived in an obscure town where there isn't any Asian grocer. So, I took the advice of a Chinese blogger. I dumped scallions in my 三杯雞 instead. It was a so-so compromise, at least was good enough to satisfy me. I'll try making 三杯豆腐 ... I love tofu!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Btw, wasn't it nice to have neighbor knocking on your door wondering what was comin' outta your kitchen? Hahaha! Take it as a compliment then! Did you treat them?

wendyywy @ Table for 2 or more..... said...

I'll definately try this out!!!
Yeah, I think silken tofu might be better as the long simmering time will draw moisture out from the tofu but at least silken tofu will not be as dry as pressed tofu after all that simmering.
But have to be very careful when frying silken tofu :)
Very delicate!!

Will let you know after I try this. Haven't been cooking since I made dumplings, too tiring. Haven't recovered. Hahaha.

Passionate About Baking said...

Hi Shirley,
I didn't know there are so many 3-cups! I only know 3 cups chickens! I'm so "mountain tortise"! I totally agree that 3 cups are not the same without thai basil. It really enhance the overall taste! Thanks for sharing the possibilities of 3 cups! :)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Pei Lin, I do take that as a compliment and no(embarrassed) I did not offer to them... I forgot my manners... :(

Wendy,you are such an experienced cook, I am sure it will turn out really good. Yes,looking at the number of zhang you made, I can imagine how tired you must be!

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

if i'm your neigbour, I will ask some from you for me to try, hehehe. Great idea, this is healthy version of 三杯 dish !!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Dear Tryout, I apologise I might have accidentally deleted your comment.Thank you so much for sharing with me the site for the cream cracker! I am so touched that you still remember my post!

Jane Ko said...

YUM i love authentic chinese food. I'll be going back to Taiwan soon, time to fatten up! :)

tigerfish said...

But silken tofu will be so much harder to handle in the claypot esp when some stirring and mixing are required during cooking!

You can try 三杯 mushrooms - the idea was from a TW cooking show.

I am also 三杯 anything but confess I tried little. Just love the sauce concoction :)

zenchef said...

I never made 3 cups tofu (i didn't even know it was called like that) but i remember having it in a Taiwanese restaurant. I love it! Lovely photos as well.

Jess @ Bakericious said...

I am so suaku only heard and ate 3 cups chicken b4 :P. This 3 cups tofu looks so yummy, and the sauce, so gd to go with rice.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Actually Jess, this dish should not have any more sauce. It should be cooked to 收汁,会有点像干烧。

Kitchen Corner said...

Oh.. that day I just tried my buddy's 3 cups chicken. Now you got this 3 cups tofu! WOW! I can't wait to try this. Thanks for sharing!

Carolyn Jung said...

I have been on a tofu kick lately, and your dish has me longing to dig my chopsticks into it.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

This is so interesting! I've never heard of a 3 cup dish but I'll take that advice and look out for 3 cup chicken on a Taiwanese menu. Thankyou for the tofu recipe! :D

pigpigscorner said...

I cook 3 cups chicken very often, will try with tofu next time! Looks so yummy!

Doc Rock said...

I spent three months in Taiwan at the in 1968 and never came across any 三杯 dishes; however,I tended to shy away from Taiwanese cooking which I was not ready for in my mid 20's with so many fresh water and seafood delicacies. Basil sounds great. If Confucius had lived in Taiwan he might have said: 三杯行必有九層塔焉!

Jo said...

This 3 cups tofu recipe makes it a great vegetarian version of the chicken. I will plan to try it out soon.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Doc Roc,that's brilliant! 三杯行必有九层塔 取其十里香薰之 择其千层绿悦之!
- 见笑了。

Doc Rock said...


Madeleine Maceda Heide said...

I'd love to hear how do you deep fry tofu? What kind of a pot do you use, how much oil, how do you avoid splattering oil everywhere, what do you do with leftover oil afterwards? Is there a taste difference with deep frying versus pan frying?
thank you!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Madeleine, to deep fry tofu, you will need alot of oil. The level of the oil needs to be such that the tofu can be fully immersed. And if you are afraid of oil splattering everywhere, use a deep pot can help. The oil needs to be very hot otherwise the tofu will not brown outside. I believe the oil temperature I was using was close to 200C. Do wrap the tofu in paper towels and place a weight over it for 20mins to remove as much water from it as possible. This can also help to reduce splattering. Hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you need further clarification.

Yummy Koh said...

Hi Shirley, I just chanced upon this dish. Is claypot necessary for this dish? I have tried the 3 cups chicken and now I want to try this. Thanks for sharing.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Yummy Koh, no a claypot is not necessary though I suspect it will smell better. I did not cook it in the claypot - I just used it for serving... :)

Yummy Koh said...

Thanks, Shirley.


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