Although I am a Hakka, I don't really know very many Hakka dishes, so when asked to name one Hakka dish, no doubt the classic Hakka Yong Taufu instantly comes to mind. The Hakka versions of Yong Taufu has more depth of flavour with the addition of minced pork and salted fish or dried shrimps as well as minced garlic - which distinguishes Hakka Yong Taufu from the Cantonese version which only uses fish paste as filling. I am sure every family, Hakka or not, has their own version of Yong Taufu.
I like to use semi-soft taufu which are often too soft and delicate to cut into triangles and stuffed with filling. So I adopted the 'open-face' method - which I scooped out a little cavity in the taufu and stuffed with filling. The stuffed taufu is then pan-fried until slightly crispy on the outside but still maintain its softness on the inside; and then braised. Besides taufu, a variety of vegetables can be stuffed with the fish and meat paste, eg okra, bitter gourd, eggplant, chillies, tofu puff, etc.
It is indeed time consuming to make this laborious Yong Taufu but is well worth the effort.
The 5 steps to making Hakka Yong Taufu from scratch:
1. Prepare fish paste
2. Prepare Hakka Taufu stuffing (fish & minced pork paste)
3. Stuff taufu
4. Cook the stuffed taufu (pan-fried and then braised)
Prepared fish paste:
1 Spanish mackerel tail (yield about 800g flesh)
1 egg white
1.5 tsp salt
2.5 tbsp tapioca starch
4 tbsp cold water
- Fillet the fish. Using a metal spoon scrape the flesh from the skin of the fillet as well as from the bones.
- Place the flesh and all the ingredients except water into the food processor and PULSE until fine, adding water gradually. Process until the fish paste comes together and turns light colour.
- With wet hands gather the fish paste together and keep 'throwing' it onto the chopping board or a large mixing bowl until it becomes firm and shiny (wet your hands so that the paste won't stick).
(At this stage, you can make fish balls or stuff the paste into taufu or vegetables)
Prepare Hakka Yong Taufu stuff (fish & meat paste):
800g fish paste
500 minced pork
70g dried shrimps, finely chopped or processed in the food processor)
50g garlic, finely minced
3 tsp pepper
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
0.5 tbsp tapioca starch
- Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
- Throw the fish & meat paste onto the chopping board (or mixing bowl) until it is firm.
- The paste is then ready to be stuffed into taufu (or any vegetables you prefer).
(Leftover fish & meat paste can be frozen)
Use a sharp paring knife to cut a square on the taufu (do not cut too deep). Use a teaspoon to carve out the taufu to make a crater-like hole and fill the hole with the fish and meat paste; smooth the surface with wet hands. (Reserve discarded taufu for later**)
Cook the stuffed taufu:
Ingredients for sauce:
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 shallots, minced finely
1 tbsp fermented soy bean paste
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
sugar & salt (adjust to individual taste)
approx 2 cups of chicken stock or water
1 tbsp cornstarch + 1.5 tbsp water - for thickening of the gravy
coriander leaves - for garnishing
- In a frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Place the stuffed taufu with the stuffing side down and fry in batches until brown and crisp (about 2 min on each side). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain the oil.
- With a little oil in the pan, saute garlic and shallots until aromatic. Add in the fermented soy bean paste and sugar, stir quickly before adding chicken stock, oyster sauce and soy sauce.
- Arrange all the stuffed tofu in frying pan and pour in sauce. Cover and let simmer under medium heat for about 10 min (do not over cook the tofu).
- Thicken sauce with cornstarch mixture.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
- Mash the discarded taufu chunks. Add in fish and meat paste and combine well.
- Make the paste into small patties and fry in hot oil.
- Patties can be braised together with the yong taufu or eat them on its own with chilli sauce.