Homestyle Tofu, Beef and Autumn Vegetable Stir Fry

I know that I haven’t posted much about Chinese food recently. Bad, wicked Barbara! Shame on me!

It is mostly because I had posted so many recipes for Chinese noodles (and yes, I will go back to those eventually, I promise, promise, promise), then got distracted by all of the canning and food preserving, that I lost my way.

Wednesday night, after I came home from work early in the afternoon, I decided enough was enough. I wanted good Chinese food. I wanted a nice, homey stir fry with lots of veggies and tofu, dammit. And I had a small bit of top round beef that could go in as well to please Zak and Morganna, the more carnivorous pair in the household.

So that is what I bloody well did. I hauled off and started digging through my fridge to see what vegetable goodies I had from the farmers’ market. I came up with a crisp bunch of spicy mustard greens, curly-edged and fragrant, some sweet Japanese turnips, their white skins so smooth, they felt like polished alabaster, some carrots, and a sweet red bell pepper, probably my last local one for the year. I had fresh local tofu, but was out of fermented black beans, so I pulled a jar of Chili black bean paste I had been meaning to try from my pantry, to see what it was like. And that bit of beef was perfect to go with everything else, because there wasn’t enough of it to stand on its own, but its grassfed flavor–nice and strong and beefy, for want of a better word, would stand up to the assertive vegetable flavors while the texture would contrast with the crispy crust of the tofu.

I deep fried the tofu first–just because I felt like it–and let it drain thoroughly on paper towels. For a discussion of how to deep fry tofu, look at my version of Peng’s Home Style Beancurd from Fuchsia Dunlop. You can pan fry it instead, or bake it, or just skip this step.

And, by the way–if you don’t want meat in this–don’t put it in there. The dish is just fine without it. In fact, I only tasted one small strip of the beef to make sure it tasted good. The fried tofu and vegetables was heavenly on its own, so I think that you vegans out there could make a really, really nice Tofu and Autumn Vegetable Stir Fry and ignore the beef I put in it.

What did it taste like? Oh, I have to tell you that the combination of vegetables was just right. The mustard greens were spicy and velvety, while the turnips were just soft, and so sweet it was like eating root vegetable candy. The carrots were sweet, too, but more crisp, and the red pepper, which was the sweetest of all, was tender-crisp and both brilliant in color and flavor. These vegetables went perfectly well with the tofu and beef.

It was a good dinner, with steamed rice, of course, and my beloved pu er tea.

Homestyle Tofu, Beef and Autumn Vegetable Stir Fry


5 ounces beef top sirloin or round, cut on the bias against the grain into thin slices
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon raw sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine or dry sherry
4 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 heaping teaspoons chili black bean sauce, or to taste
8 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1″X1″X1/2″ slices, deep fried and drained
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine or dry sherry
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
2 turnips, peeled and cut in half, then cut into thin half-moons
1/4 cup sweet red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 1.2 cups mustard greens, large veins removed, rinsed, dried and cut into bite sized chunks
1/4 cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Toss beef with sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce and Shao Hsing, and allow to marinate for at least twenty minutes.

Heat wok on very high heat until it just begins to smoke. Add peanut or canola oil, and allow to heat for about thirty to forty seconds more. Add the onions, and stirring, allow to begin to brown–when they are light golden, add beef, and spread it into a single layer. Sprinkle the ginger and garlic over and allow the beef to sit undisturbed on the bottom of the wok for about a minute until it begins to brown, and you can smell a beefy aroma mixed with browning onions.

Add the chili black bean sauce and start stir frying vigorously, until most of the red is gone. Add the tofu and the soy sauce, stirring until both beef and tofu are coated with sauce. Deglaze the pan with the second measure of wine, and then toss in the carrots, stirring and frying for a minute. Add turnips, and sweet bell peppers and stir fry another minute. Add greens, and broth, and stir fry until the greens wilt and the broth thickens and clings to everything in the wok.

Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil, and serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice.

Feeds about four adults and a hungry infant.


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  1. your post made me smile 🙂 you would certainly enjoy it here if you come to visit Malaysia, we have tons of good Chinese food

    Comment by rokh — November 4, 2007 #

  2. Rokh–someday, I need to go to the Far East. It is top on my list of places to go before I die, or am too decrepit to enjoy them, anyway.

    Good Chinese food is a perfectly good reason to travel, in my opinion.

    Comment by Barbara — November 4, 2007 #

  3. This looks like the perfect thing to serve to my vegan friend the next time he comes over! It sure looks like it has a lot of flavor!

    Comment by Deborah — November 4, 2007 #

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