In one of my previous posts, I gave an introduction to Chinese clay pots and how to care for them. Please read it if you want to make this dish in a clay pot. Here’s a great recipe that can be made inside a clay pot! Let’s learn more about this dish before making it below.
This dish is a Cantonese dish. Cantonese people are famous for making very “clear” dishes that do not have strong flavorings but just the natural umami flavor. One great example is Seafood Tofu Clay Pot（海鲜豆腐煲 hai xian dou fu bao [in Mandarin], pronounced hai, rhymes with eye, syehn, doh, like dough, foo, like in cool, ball. literally “ocean fresh bean curd clay-pot”, and “ocean fresh” means “seafood” in Chinese.）, which relies totally on the stock to season the dish. Seafood and tofu, napa cabbage and other ingredients are cooked in broth in a clay pot. It’s very typical of “clear” flavored Cantonese cuisine, and requires fresh and good ingredients. Actually, as a result, I don’t recommend making it with seafood as the only tofu version is much better here. In the USA, I can only get frozen shrimp and squid and scallops, even though I live not far from the coast of California, ugh! It’s really crazy. They always have a horrible fishy odor, and I have to remove with a salt scrub, sake soak, vinegar soak, it’s crazy! And if there is milk good to have a milk soak too. These get rid of the terrible fishy smell. Also, the seafood in this dish cooks to so rubbery when I make it. I added it at the very and end and blanched for 1 minute, perfect, then turn off the heat and the seafood stays in the hot water and becomes harder to chew than rubber! Ewwww… so it may look beautiful in the picture but imagine the seafood to be rubber. Anyways I have no idea how Cantonese people keep seafood so tender, so I’m just going to give the recipe with tofu only, hehe. You can also make a vegetarian version with konbu dashi 😀
Adapted from the seafood recipe in Grace Young’s very good Cantonese cookbook, Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen
4 cups napa cabbage leaves cut to 1/4 inch thick shreds (4 cups of the shreds not the whole leaves, hehe)
1 inch ginger, finely julienned (traditionally sliced ginger is used but I prefer julienned because you can eat the julienne and it is great flavor)
2 green onions, finely julienned
some cilantro to taste, cut into 2 inch long pieces (optional if you don’t like or don’t have)
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used less because I didn’t have 8), soaked in 1/2 to 1 cup hot water, to cover, and top with a small plate to press down, soaking until soft, like 30 minutes or so, or longer, and reserve the soaking water, which is very flavorful and full of umami, and thinly slice the mushrooms, I leave the stem on because it is a waste to remove and they soften from the cooking.
1/2 cup cooked bamboo shoot from a can or package, julienned or thinly sliced (optional if you don’t have)
1 block (approx. 14-16 oz) firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1.5 cups or more chicken broth/stock (preferably homemade Chinese style, but I always drink all the chicken soup I make and not leave it for stock, hehe), or Chinese stock, or dashi, or use Better than Bouillon, or water and must use dashi powder, or a combination (I used 2.5 cups because I prefer more soup, but it is traditional to have not too much soup in this dish)
about 2 oz dried Chinese mung bean starch noodles, soaked in cold water 15 minutes and drained well
1/2 tsp salt (use only 1/4 tsp if using dashi powder)
1 tsp dashi powder (decrease salt if using) (SO GOOD, adds amazing umami to Cantonese soups! I learned this from Wantanmien’s amazing Youtube video for Salmon Head Tofu Soup, which I make often for my mom) (you shouldn’t use if you are using actual dashi, or you can decrease it, just don’t overpower)
1/4 tsp white pepper powder
2 tsp sesame oil
1. In a Chinese clay pot, put the napa cabbage evenly on the bottom. You can use a cocotte or a stainless steel pot if you don’t want to use a clay pot! But clay pot is beautiful, traditional, and inexpensive, although it is harder to care for. Please read my clay pot post for more information.
2. Sprinkle the ginger on top evenly, then julienned shiitake evenly. If using bamboo shoots, sprinkle evenly too.
3. Spread the mung bean starch noodles in an even layer.
4. Then sprinkle tofu evenly on top. You can evenly spread green onion on top now but it will not be very green later, so I recommend adding after boiling.
5. Sprinkle on top the salt, pepper, and dashi powder.
6. Pour over the shiitake soaking liquid, strained to remove small particles, and also the stock you are using.
7. Cover with the lid. Set over low heat. Then in 5 minutes, to medium-low, then medium. If your stove flame is weaker, like mine, you can start with medium low or even medium like I do. Then I stop it at medium high. Definitely do not do the highest heat with a clay pot. And don’t do medium high with a more powderful stove! If using a cocotte or other pot, just start on medium high or high depending on the pot!
8. When the soup boils, uncover and add green onion on top. Notice how the water level is higher now because the napa cabbage shrunk.
9. Now stir the contents gently to distribute if you wish. This is optional though, but try to immerse everything under the liquid unless you only added the smallest amount and it’s not possible.
10. Then cover and simmer 3-4 minutes or so over medium or low. Actually if everything is cooked well, this is optional too.
11. Uncover and put the cilantro on top evenly. Drizzle the sesame oil too.
12. Now you can cover again or just serve immediately. Enjoy the ingredients with the soup. Serve with rice and other dishes. I served tomato and egg stir-fry, which I have a recipe for and it’s very, very easy to make. You can also serve a green leaf vegetable like the several recipes I have, but it is optional in my opinion as the soup contains napa cabbage. Enjoy the clear flavor and umami of the broth!
Remember, I make it with seafood that turned to rubber, so don’t be surprised when you see the seafood in the below picture, hehe.