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.
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 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.