I recently stumbled across Madame Huang’s Kitchen, a blog written by Carolyn Phillips, a Chinese translator and food writer with a passion for Chinese cuisine. Rarely do I come across a blogged dish that provokes enough excitement that I will make it the same day, but when I spotted Carolyn’s spicy vegan yuba recipe my dinner plans shifted immediately. Heat from the chili oil and malted smokiness from the black vinegar combine with the chewiness of the bean curd sticks to create a meal not easily forgotten.
The idea came to me to create a similar preparation, only I craved a Middle Eastern twist. Pomegranate molasses, the sharp and fruity syrup made from reducing pomegranate juice, was what I had in mind. That’s because I knew I was out of it, meaning I would obsess over the ingredient relentlessly as if I couldn’t live without it. “But how are we supposed to make toast without pomegranate molasses? I can’t live like this.” Dramatic sigh. Storms out of room.
So I bought a jar, eventually, and put together a dressing reminiscent of a flavour I recall the first time I tried pomegranate molasses. Sweet, sour and citrusy, earthy, and some other adjectives that don’t tell you or anyone anything aside from details of my codependency with thesaurus.com.
My kitchen is regularly stocked with yuba sheets, and I use them often, but the sticks? Those have always been a forgotten packet enduring time at the back of the cupboard, a piece infrequently snapped off to add character to otherwise dull midweek soups. Now they feel like an essential ingredient. Suddenly I am out of stock, which can only mean one thing: the world is ending. I can’t live like this.
Be sure to check out Carolyn’s recipe, the inspiration for mine below, and when you make it please comment to let her know how A++ gold stars she is.
Pomegranate Bean Curd Sticks
Dried yuba comes in a few forms, so be sure to buy the sticks, also called fuzhu, for this recipe. Find them in Chinese grocers (London’s Chinatown will have you covered). The dill at the end is optional, really, but it’s a glorious herb and you should probably take every chance you can to use it. It won’t overpower the dish, especially if you leave it for a few hours before serving. Serve with pilao rice and/or flatbread (pita works too).
- 100 grams dried bean curd sticks
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium to large brown or red onion, thinly sliced
- 1-2 sticks celery and leaves, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried mint
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Pinch or 2 cinnamon
- ¼-½ teaspoon dried dill
- Handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
- Snap the sticks into approximate two inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to soak and rehydrate about about an hour (or until swollen and soft). Drain, rinse, and discard any tough pieces. Shake the colander to eliminate as much excess water as possible.
- In a large frying pan or saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of the oil to medium heat. Add the onions and fry for about 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until onions are transparent and beginning to brown lightly. Add the chopped celery and garlic. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
- Knock the heat up to medium high. Add the extra 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin, dried mint, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Tip the yuba pieces into the pan. Stir to coat evenly and simmer until the liquid has mostly reduced (2-3 minutes).
- Stir through the dried dill and season with any additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley, or leave for a few hours for the flavours to infuse before serving.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Servings: 2
- Cuisine: Persian Chinese Fusion