Servings: 6 mini pates
1 pound firm tofu
1½ teaspoons ginger garlic paste (see tips)
2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ (2-ounce) package dried bean thread noodles
1 King oyster mushroom, diced
6 fresh wood ear mushrooms, finely chopped
¼ cup celery, peeled and diced
2 egg whites (optional)
4 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onions, finely chopped
1 (4-inch) piece leek (white part only), finely diced
½ carrot, peeled, boiled and diced
½ teaspoon red chili powder
1½ teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
1½ teaspoons black pepper
Prepping the bean thread noodles: Place the dried bean thread noodles in a bowl, cutting and discarding the little cotton threads. Soak the noodles in cold water for 20 minutes and drain. Chop into 1 inch threads. Set aside.
Prepping the tofu:
Cut the tofu into ½-inch slices. Blanch the tofu for about 3-4 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain the liquid. Let the tofu cool a little. Once the tofu is cool enough to handle, mash the boiled tofu with your hands using disposable gloves. The tofu should resemble large cottage cheese curds. Set the tofu aside.
Prepping the vegetables:
In a non-stick pan, heat the oil. Once it's hot, add the garlic and leeks and fry the pieces until lightly golden. Add the carrot, celery and mushrooms (king oyster mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms). Set aside.
Steaming and baking:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In the large mixing bowl containing the mashed tofu, add ginger garlic paste, turmeric, chopped onion, red chili powder and black pepper. Using food service disposable gloves, mix well. Add the green onions and egg whites (if used). Add the cooked vegetables and bean thread noodles. Adjust seasoning.
Note: for a vegan version, simpy omit the egg whites but they will give a firmer texture to the vegetarian pâté.
Lightly spray some oil on 6 (6-inch diameter) disposable pot pie pans. Remove the excess oil. Fill each tin with the tofu mixture.
Fill a large pot with cold water until it barely touches the steamer level. Place all the tins in the steamer (I needed to stack 2 levels to fit all the tins), bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Steam for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Remove the tins and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until the top is dried.
Sandwich assembly suggestion:
Cut slices of the vegetarian pâté.
Use 1 individual baguette per serving (a recipe for authentic Vietnamese baguette made with rice flour appears in the Bánh Mì cookbook). Cut lengthwise into the baguette and remove some of the crumb. Drizzle the inside of the baguette with "nước chấm", vegetarian dipping sauce or Maggi Seasoning. Spread a thin layer of softened butter (if using) on both sides of the bread. Fill the sandwich with the pâté , sliced cucumbers, thin slices of jalapeño, lettuce, and pickled carrot and daikon. Garnish with 2 sprigs of cilantro. Drizzle with "tướng ớt", Sriracha. Close the sandwich tightly.
Little reminder on how to make freshly grated ginger: Clean the ginger root to remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife (or the edge of a spoon). Grate the ginger with a fine mesh Microplane. Gather about 1 teaspoon of grated ginger root.
I use ginger garlic paste a lot in my cooking. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Place the chopped (or grated) ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.
You can find wood ear mushrooms in any Asian store. Our local Asian market carries fresh wood ear mushrooms (you can also use the dried version). They're grown locally in Half Moon Bay (CA) and they're sold in 6-ounce packages. They're flavorless but they give an interesting, chewy texture to the vegetarian pâté.
I used Vinh Khang brand firm tofu, which is freshly made daily. There are two locations in the Bay Area: Vinh Khang Tofu, 141 Dixon Road, Milpitas, CA 95035 and 2955 Senter Road #80, San Jose, Ca 95111. The owner told me he also has a location in Southern California.
One of the most common condiments to serve with tàu hũ chưng is Sriracha sauce (it's the red chili sauce in the bottle with the green cap) or a dipping sauce called nước mắm.