Ever since I wrote this article for the Wild Word magazine, I am constantly in a state of homesickness. It makes me thinking a lot about home, the people I knew, the places I frequented when I lived there, the food I adored. Fond memories flood in whenever I have a minute by myself: traveling on the crowded tram, walking down the rain drenched street on the way to pick up my daughter from school, waiting in the queue paying for my groceries. Most of the times, I try to connect those past events with the food that might have been eaten. Since then I have been cooking, more than usual, a lot of asian food to sooth my nostalgia, hence this recipe.
Preserved bean cure, also known as Fermented bean cure or tofu, is made with soy bean, salt, rice wine and vinegar. The bean curd we get outside of China normally is shaped as small cubes then soaked in flavored (such as chili) brine in a jar. It is a very popular condiment in China and some other Asian countries. Savory and full of umami flavour, it is commonly used in stir-fry vegetables, especially best for leafy green. The deeper flavour variety, the ‘red preserved bean curd’ are also used for braising meat dishes. Its curious flavour and aroma remind me of how my mother cooked them with pig trotter, yellow bean paste and ginger in her massive steel wok for hours. The aroma lingered in the whole flat while mother peacefully reading newspapers with her oversized spectacles. To some people, eating pig trotter sounds repulsive, but for most Asian countries, also in Europe, it is rather popular. Apparently, pig trotter is rich in collagen, hence good for your skin. But it isn’t this ‘anti-aging’ property which attracts me to love eating pig trotters, it is the combination of the skin, the meat texture that your mouth ‘feels’, and if you have time and cook it right, the taste is remarkably delicate. I haven’t eaten it for a long time though, I do miss my mother’s delicious recipe.
But this time, we will leave the pig trotters aside and make a lovely spinach side dish instead. Using preserved bean curd as the main seasoning, its distinguish umami flavour brilliantly compliments the slightly bitter taste of the dark green leafy spinach. The bean curd here was soaked in chili brine, it adds yet another exciting layer of flavour to the whole dish.
Served 3-4 as a side dish
- 300g spinach
- 2 pieces of preserved bean curd in chili brine
- 1 half a thumb size ginger, peeled and julienned
- 1 fresh chili, sliced
- vegetable oil
- Tamari or regular soy sauce, to taste
- A small pinch of sugar
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
Warm a splash of vegetable in a wok then add the ginger and preserved bean curd. Add the chilis, fry for half a minute.
Add the washed spinach, quickly stir-fry until all beancurd has disintegrated and well coated on the vegetables. Add a pinch of sugar, have a taste, add tamari (a teaspoon at a time because the bean curd is quite salty already) if it need more saltiness.
When all spinach is wilted, add the sesame oil. Transfer the spinach on a warm platter, served as a side dish with steamy jasmine rice.