SPICE UP YOUR LIFE | MA LA YONG TAU FOO

Life teaches us many lessons. I learnt some and told myself: “don't repeat same mistakes anymore”. But then, there were lessons I still refuse to learn. One of which concerns eating spicy food😜😜  

Speaking of spicy food, the spicier it is, the more appetising to me. When there isn’t a drop of soup nor single noodle left in my bowl, it's a sign of shiok-ness (awesomeness), satisfaction and—normally—spice!😌

Unfortunately, spicy food has never spared me any mercy for my throat and digestive system. Even after years of awful experiences following the notorious McSpicy, I’d tell myself: “A McSpicy won’t kill… it’s okay... my stomach can take this”. Every time I’d step into McDonald’s and order I’d say this to myself and indulge in some McSpicy goodness. Future Alicia is left to deal with the aftermath.

Regrettably, future Alicia normally gets sent straight to the battlefield (toilet) after spicy foods. The odds are not good. 50% of the time: survival😝. The rest of the time: bed-ridden for several days. Still, I can never steer clear of spiciness hehe. However☝🏻, I’m learning (albeit slowly) to be more sensible by managing the spiciness level according to how much my stomach can handle.

I'm a sucker for spicy food and Sichuan ma la (an oily, spicy, tongue-numbing Chinese spice blend which consists mainly of Sichuan peppercorns and chilli peppers) is my biggest craving for dinner despite the unbearable heat these days. So, last weekend mummy chow and I prepared our freshly homemade Yong Tau Foo (a Hakka Chinese cuisine comprising tofu and an array of vegetables stuffed with minced meat or fish paste mixture) with ma la sauce that we bought off the shelf. I believe ma la sauce to be an essential condiment if you like cooking Asian stir-fry. Just a dash the sauce harmonises with any type of meat or vegetable, and makes the dish looks so much more inviting.

The amount of ma la sauce I state in this recipe is for a moderately spicy and slightly savoury taste. I’d recommend accompanying the dish with plain white rice. Stuffing the fish and meat mixture into the vegetables (brinjal, green pepper, red chillies and ladyfingers) is a slightly tedious step, and will require some time and patience—you’ve been warned 😈. However, seeing your whole pot of Yong Tau Foo get polished off in the blink of an eye makes it all worthwhile!

Alternatively, for a quick cook with similar results, get store-bought Yong Tau Fu from an Asian supermarket. Usually a pack include the ingredients I've listed below with fish stuffing.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 200g fish paste
  • 150g minced pork
  • 6 lady fingers
  • 6 red chillies
  • ½ of a brinjal
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 packet golden mushroom 
  • 1 tablespoon black bean mala sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chilli crisps mala sauce
  • 1½ teaspoon Shao Hsing Hua Diao Wine (Chinese rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon corn flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley 
  • 1 slice of dried fish skin (optional)
  • 5 black fungus (optional)
  • 3 bamboo shoots (optional)
  • 1 packet of glass noodles (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted peanuts (optional)

Kitchen Equipment

  • Chopping board
  • Vegetable knife
  • Butter knife
  • Small pot
  • Stock pot

Preparation

  • Fill up half of the small pot with water, turn on medium-high heat and bring to boil. Add in the dried fish skin to soften it and bring out its natural oils. Turn off heat after 5 minutes, then cut the skin into thick strips. 
  • Pour away the water from small pot. Then place in the eggs and cover with more water (cover by about 1 inch). Add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil over medium-heat, then cover for 8-10 minutes—while they continue to cook.

While the eggs are boiling...

  • Cut away roots of the golden mushrooms,sSoak glass noodles, fungus, and golden mushrooms in a bowl of cold water
  • Combine fish paste and minced pork. Add in pepper, Hua Diao Wine and corn flour. Mix well and set aside.
  • Slice bamboo shoots and brinjals into chunks
  • Cut away stem, calyx and shoulder of green pepper, chillies and ladyfingers. Remove seeds and placenta from green pepper and chillies. Caution: Use a knife to scrap out the seeds, do not touch them (avoid finger burn). Alternatively, wear a glove. 
  • Cut green peppers in quarters. Cut a small opening into the chillies and ladyfingers (for later stuffing).

Back to the eggs...

  • Turn off heat, drain water from small pot, cool the hard-boiled eggs in water, peel then cut into halves.
  • Use a butter knife to push the fish and meat mixture into green peppers, chillies and ladyfingers. As for brinjal, spread it on the surface. 

Cooking

  • Fill up half the Stock pot with water, turn on medium-high heat. Gently pour in all the vegetables, let them cook for 8-10 minutes. The stuffing in the vegetables should turn white and solid before when done.
  • Drain, add in 2 tablespoons of chilli oil from the chilli crisps ma la sauce, turn on medium heat. Add the black fungus, bamboo shoots, fish skin, and glass noodles. Stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Add stuffed vegetables, black bean ma la sauce, chilli crisps ma la sauce and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well, lower heat, cover and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. 
  • Remove cover and turn off the heat. Before serving, sprinkle a generous amount of toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, and chopped parsley. 

Tip: While indulging in this hot and spicy Yong Tau Foo, remember to have a cup of beer/milk to cool down your burning tongue🔥, and tissues for wiping your sweat💦.