For the last 2000 years, give or take a few, freshly made tofu could be found across China. In days past, it was common to find walking douhua hawkers with a pole across their shoulders, a barrel of tofu hanging from one end and a bucket full of toppings dangling from the other, selling to hungry passersby. Some toppings favor the sweet: cinnamon, sugar syrup, aged soy sauce, and dried fruits, while others tend toward the savory and/or spicy: soy sauce, black vinegar, red chile oil, Sichuan peppercorn, and herbs. At times, crackers, fried beans, and/or nuts are added for texture.
Where Southerners are likely to simply refer to the snack as douhua, Northerners call it doufunao, or tofu “brains”! This rather descriptive name comes from the textural/visual likeness to brains after you break soft tofu up in a bowl along with colorful ingredients. Swerving away from the name, did we tell you that we’d always kept an eye out for the pole guy as long as we’ve been visiting China? This was our white whale. Last Summer in Chengdu, it finally happened! We enjoyed a quick chat with Mr. Ding, and of course, ate his tofu. “I’ll carry this pole as long people are buying my food,” he exclaimed! Enjoy Mr. Ding’s brains.
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Serves: 4–6
- 1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil, plus more for frying
- 6 scallions, separated into white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 10 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 5 oz Chinese dried black wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated, drained, thinly sliced
- 4 cups chicken broth, or broth from Jirou Tang (Chicken Soup)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
- 12 wonton wrappers, ½-inch strips
- 2 lb fresh or silken tofu
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a pot over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the scallion whites and mushrooms. Sauté for 5–6 minutes or until the scallions are translucent and the mushrooms have begun to brown.
- Add broth, soy sauce, and vinegar to the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and maintain a simmer for 20 minutes while you fry the wonton strips.
- In a separate pot over medium heat, add oil to a depth of 1 inch, and heat to 360°F.
- Fry the wonton strips in batches until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Evenly hand-crumble tofu into 4–6 bowls. Ladle broth over the tofu, top with scallion greens and wonton strips, and serve hot. Optionally, you may also garnish it with Lajiao You (Chile Oil).
Handy Trick: No thermometer? No problem! To test the readiness of the oil for frying, use a wooden chopstick. Dip the chopstick into the oil at an angle and touch the bottom of the pot. When the submerged part of the chopstick is surrounded completely by little bubbles, the oil is ready.
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