Saturday, 21 April 2012

Yellow savoury Shan tofu

Normally we eat this dish at breakfast-time, and we usually eat out, rather than making it at home.  If you don’t have a special grinder for the split peas or dall, like they do in a shop, it tastes too powdery.  Plus it’s a lot of work making it at home, so it’s worth paying for someone to cook it for you.  If you are having a big party, you might take your empty pot to the shop or noodle bar in the early morning, then collect it later when they’ve filled it for you.

Start by washing and soaking the yellow split peas or chanal dall for at least five hours.  Then take it to a shop, where they use a special mechanized mortar and pestle to grind it to a paste (or you could use powdered chanal dall to begin with).  Next, dilute the paste with water and sieve it through a muslin cloth into two bowls.  Let them sit for another 5 hours.  In that time the contents will separate out.  Take the liquid from the top part of the second bowl and bring it to the boil, stirring continuously in one direction only - if you keep changing from clockwise to anti-clockwise and so on, the texture will be ruined.  When the liquid comes to the boil, lower the heart and stir in the set paste from the bottom of the bowl.  Bring it back to the boil, and keep stirring for another few minutes on a low heat while the tofu thickens to the right consistency.  Season with salt.

Now it’s nearly ready to eat!  Cook some soft flat Shan noodles and mix a portion of the tofu with a portion of the noodles.  This is usually a vegetarian dish but you could add some pieces of cooked chicken at this stage. Then, what really brings this dish alive is the garnishes: a sprinkling of chopped coriander, a pinch of sliced spring onion, a spoonful of cane sugar melted with water, a little five spice mixed with hot oil, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a little bit of fried chopped garlic, a few crushed peanuts, and some dried chillies in oil.

It’s this attention to detail, and appreciation of all the contrasting and complementary textures and flavours which each of the garnishes adds to the dish, along with the rich, comforting wholesomeness of the noodles and tofu, which makes this dish so characteristic of Shan cuisine as a whole.

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