Last time I was in a civilized place – and apparently my definition of “civilized place” is “has a Chinese/Asian grocery store” – I stocked up on tau pok. It freezes extremely well, and I freely admit it is my favourite form of tofu. In spite of consisting of deep fried chunks, it is really not greasy and the resulting chewy/airy texture is terrific. If you think you don’t much like tofu and it is the texture that puts you off, this is a good way to try it again and see.
There are a number of traditional recipes for stuffing and steaming tau pok. My take on it combines things from 2 popular versions, mostly as a matter of expedience; other than the tau pok itself these are all ingredients I can get around here.
I found the oyster sauce added a necessary punch of saltiness to these – in spite of the fish sauce, they were not really salty in themselves. If you don’t have any oyster sauce, add a bit more fish sauce or double the salt in the filling.
16 to 20 pieces1 hour – 20 minutes prep timeassumes puffs are steamed in 2 batches
250 grams (1/2 pound) ground pork OR chicken2 tablespoons fish sauce1/4 teaspoon saltfreshly ground black pepper1 tablespoon arrowroot OR corn starch1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger2/3 to 1 cup finely chopped green onion OR chives
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil to oil dish
1 package (185 grams; 6.5 ounces) fried tofu puffs (tau pok)about 1/2 cup chicken stock
Put the ground meat in a bowl with the fish sauce, salt, pepper, and arrowroot. Peel and grate the ginger, and add it. Wash, dry, trim, and chop the green onions or chives very finely and add them. Mix everything very well.
Set up your steamer; it should hold the stuffed tofu in a dish. Mine would only hold half at a time so I set up 2 dishes to go into it. Lightly oil the dish or dishes, and turn the heat on under the steamer. If you are doing it in two rounds, be sure there is plenty of water in it, or that you can add boiling water to top it up if needed.
Meanwhile, stuff some tofu. Cut a slit in one side (top) of each puff and put in a bit of the filling You can stuff in more than you might think and I found it useful to score off the bowl of filling to make sure it was being more-or-less evenly divided. There were 18 puffs in my package, but they are plainly hand-cut and varied a bit in size so quantity may not be exact either. Arrange them in the oiled dish(es) in a single layer, stuffing up. Place them in the steamer and pour a little chicken stock on them; just enough for them to be sitting in about 1/4″ of it. Steam for 20 minutes. If you have a rack or similar thing that can go under the plate to be steamed, and which has handles to allow it to lift the plate out, that is very helpful.
If you have a second dish, check the water level, and steam it for 20 minutes with a little chicken stock in the same way.
These will be very hot when they come out, and the spongy tofu holds some of the broth to burst out and burn you when bitten, so let them sit for a full 10 minutes before serving. Garnish them with a drizzle of oyster sauce and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, if you like.
Last year at this time I made Sorrel Soup.