Friday, April 21, 2006

pb and t


T is for tofu. I have been practicing my own form of fusion at home.

Way before anyone was slathering hoisin sauce onto pizza dough or tossing mandarin oranges with romaine, my family was exploring the culinary frontier of East-meets-West with "Chinese Variations on Skippy".

The classic example is Shou-aie's (my "little aunt's") sandwich - peanut butter and pork sung on white bread. I have yet to meet anyone (Chinese or otherwise) who believes that this could be a good idea, but I tell you, it's genius. Visit your nearest dealer in fluffy dried pork (any Chinese grocery store) and see for yourself. I ate a lot of peanut butter-pork sung sandwiches growing up.

Meanwhile, my grandmother, or PoPo as I called her, assessed our peanut butter-pork sung-eating habits, sighed, and assumed the responsibility for nourishing our displaced family in Boston. With no cooks to rely on in the States (as she had had back in Taipei), she developed her own repertoire of dishes, relying on her memory, Chinese newspaper clippings, and the kindness of friends who included recipes in their letters.

Probably to PoPo's dismay, among all her tasteful, authentic creations, it was her quick and simple preparation of cold tofu that endured as one of my all-time favorites. PoPo granted my request for Peanut Butter Tofu only when our tofu was at its freshest (our family bought massive quantities, straight from the wholesaler that supplies the Chinese restaurants and grocery stores of Boston - Chang Shing Tofu).

I tried to replicate PoPo's recipe based on taste. It's close, but not quite right. It didn't activate my taste memory the way it would have had I gotten it perfect. I need to keep trying.

PoPo's Cold Peanut Butter Soy Sauce Tofu
1 square fresh, soft tofu ("silken" at an American grocery store)
3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. warm water
2 scallions, chopped
sesame oil

Set the tofu on a medium-sized plate. With a sharp knife, slice into 1" cubes, retaining the tofu's upright shape. Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, and water together in a small bowl, and smooth the mixture over the tofu. Garnish with scallions, and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve and enjoy!

My grandmother cooked with passion, and with resilience, and she lived the way she cooked. PoPo selected only the highest quality ingredients, and she never skimped in her preparation of them - if she was going to cook at all, she was going to do it right. When PoPo encountered a difficult dish, we ate it day after day, week after week, until she was finally satisfied with her results. Every day, PoPo happily spoiled those she loved, by feeding us with good food.

My grandmother's example remains a great inspiration in my life. PoPo was also a writer.


fooDcrazEE said...

thats intersting....never heard of this before and kinda skeptical. 2 nuts together ? lolz

shaz said...

hmm... i guess you gotta try it to believe this one! thanks for sharing a family recipe

Julie said...

I'm not sold on the concept of pb & t but this is lovely writing. Your grandmother sounds like a remarkable woman.

Genevieve said...

Thank you three for entertaining the idea at least! :) I checked in with my family about this recipe. Turns out high quality soy sauce is a big part of this dish, and peanut butter was only used as a substitute, before we could get our hands on sesame paste in Boston...

Peter B. said...

This is brilliant! I suppose all good fusion food should being people together by allowing them to safely test their boundaries with half of the fusion acting as a crutch.

If this snack actually works (for now I'll take your word) it has the potential to bring two of my friends together who otherwise are on opposite ends of the culinary spectrum.

We have to try this at work so I can learn from the local master before I take it home and attempt to ford the seemingly insurmountable gap between my vegan and carnivorous friends.

Aromatherapy said...

Pork sung & PB sounds good to me! I've made a version of the PB&T for years. No need to be skeptical. Also PB & cuke sandwiches w/hot sauce.

Anonymous said...

PB & pork sung is a staple in our familly! I love it!