The fact that I am Hakka but have not yet featured a Hakka recipe on the blog is simply a crime. I can't say that I learned everything that I know about Hakka cooking from my Ah Gong (grandfather) who cooked and used the kitchen way more than my Po Po. But I can say that my desire to cook was partly influenced by him. And if you know me, you'd understand my craze for feeding a crowd. All that, was much influenced by my gigantic Hakka family. I mean, how can I not when I basically saw my entire extended family every, single, weekend growing up? A house full of 25-30 people? Checked. Food? DOUBLE CHECKED!
Being a Hakka in Hong Kong isn't all that out of the ordinary. There are many Hakka villages spread around the New Territories that are very much populated. People move around as lands develop so Hakkas living outside of villages are becoming very common these days. While a reasonable amount of Hong Kong-born-and-raised Hakkas had moved overseas, the Hakka tradition lives on with a handful of regular celebrations and gatherings throughout the year.
Have I bored you yet with my mumbo jumbo? Let's go back to the topic of today and talk food! You can certainly read more about my Hakka heritage in the Proud to be Hakka post I wrote a while back!
There are many classic Hakka dishes like the Stuffed Tofu (釀豆腐) that people would consider or have mistaken as Cantonese. The truth is, both cultures share a lot of similarities in cooking, and have been adapting and borrowing from each other for quite some time. With its rich migration history, dishes like Stuffed Tofu (釀豆腐) travels with the Hakka people wherever they land. To me, food is always about adapting and that's what makes food universal and interesting. When Hakkas take dishes with them to live somewhere else, they adapt local flavors, ingredients, and techniques. According to Linda Lau Anusasananan, when the Hakkas moved to southern China a long time ago, wheat wasn't widely available to make dumpling wrappers so they adapted by using tofu instead.
I don't expect Stuffed Tofu (釀豆腐) in other Hakka-influenced Chinese communities around the world to be all the same. The standard and common ingredients for Stuffed Tofu (釀豆腐) requires, of course, tofu. The filling is mostly pork but it can sometimes be mixed with fish or shrimp. The filling can also be used to stuff other vegetables like bell peppers and eggplant. While some people stuff the filling with tofu pockets, I always like to make the open-face version of Stuffed Tofu (釀豆腐). For sauces, soy sauce is used most of the time as well as oyster sauce, and fish sauce for Hakka Chinese who had migrated to South East Asia. Some like to steam, others prefer to deep-fry (I like to pan-fry), and each cooking method has its own beauty really. You could also choose to make a braised stuffed tofu dish after the tofu has been fried. Pan-frying, for me, produces the right balance of slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It's really one of the perfect ways, one of my favorite ways, to eat tofu.
Learn more about Hakka cooking, culture and history from Linda Lau Anusasananan in The Hakka Cookbook. Available on Amazon.
Hakka Stuffed Tofu (釀豆腐)
Prep time: 35 mins Cook time: 5 mins Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 12 pieces, 2"x2"
- 1 lb (1 block) firm tofu
- ½ lb ground pork
- 1½ tsp minced fresh ginger
- 2 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine
- 3 dashes of white pepper powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 stalks scallions, finely chopped
- ½ cup corn starch
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp corn starch and 2 tbsp water, mixed
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- Extract excess water from tofu by sandwiching it with few sheets of paper towels on a plate (underneath and on top of tofu). Using something considerably flat and heavy, gently place it on top and center of tofu for about 10 minutes.
- Mix ground pork with minced ginger, cooking wine, white pepper powder, salt, sesame oil, and scallion.
- Prepare, and set aside the ½ cup of corn starch in a medium size bowl (for coating tofu later before frying).
- Prepare the sauce by heating up sauce ingredients (minus the corn starch mixture). Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to simmer. Stir in corn starch mixture slowly which will start to thicken up the sauce. Continue stirring for another 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.
- Slice tofu into 12 pieces. Then make a cavity in each piece using a teaspoon as a scoop. Save tofu scraps for another use if you wish. Stuff each tofu with roughly 1 tbsp of pork filling.
- Heat up a cast iron pan with some oil. Carefully pick up stuffed tofu pieces, and coat them with corn starch on all sides (shake off the excess gently). Place them on the hot pan with filling side down. Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip them over with a spatula and cook for 2 more minutes. Add more oil to the pan as needed.
- Plate, then sauce. Garnish with finely chopped scallion. Serve immediately.