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Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for Shaoxing and soy braised tofu with pak choi | The new vegan | Food

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After considerable experimentation, I’m willing to put a stake in the ground and say that I’ve found a favourite way with tofu. Of course, there might soon be another new favourite way, but until then, it is this: fry it hard, then braise it. Frying it over a high heat gives the tofu a crisp exterior, while a quick soft braise makes those crisp edges delightfully chewy and allows the tofu to soak up whatever sauce it’s put in. This was a point of kitchen enlightenment for me, and I hope it is for you, too.

Shaoxing and soy braised tofu with pak choi

It’s worth doing all the prep up front and putting things into small piles within reach of the stove, because this comes together in a few minutes. Shaoxing wine tastes much like dry sherry and many major supermarkets now stock their own brand; otherwise, you’ll find it in any Chinese supermarket.

Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4

8 dried shiitake mushrooms (or 10g)
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
450g extra-firm tofu
, pressed to remove the water
2 tbsp neutral oil
3cm piece fresh ginger
, peeled and grated
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 spring onions, trimmed and cut on a steep angle
2 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
250g pak choi, shredded
Steamed rice, to serve

Put the mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl and pour over 300ml freshly boiled water. They’ll do their best to float, but immerse them by pressing them down with a spoon or gently pressing the base of another bowl on top. Leave for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the mushrooms into the bowl, and finely slice the flesh; put both the liquid and mushrooms to one side.

In a separate little bowl, mix the cornflour with two tablespoons of the mushroom stock, then add the Shaoxing wine, both soy sauces and the sugar, stir and put to one side.

Once you’ve pressed all the water from your tofu, cut it into 1.5cm slices. In your widest nonstick pan for which you have a lid, heat two tablespoons of oil over a medium heat and, when very hot, add the tofu slices in a single layer. Leave to fry for three to five minutes, until golden then flip over with a spatula and fry the other side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, on a medium to high heat (add a little extra oil, if need be) and, when hot, add the ginger, garlic, spring onions and chillies and fry for about four minutes, until fragrant. Turn down the heat, then add the cornflour and soy sauce mixture, the sliced mushrooms and their reserved stock (save for the final teaspoon or two, which may contain some grit), and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then return the tofu slices to one side of the pan and put the shredded pak choi on the other side. Cover the pan, leave for five minutes until the tofu is hot and the greens tender, then take off the heat. Distribute across four plates and serve with freshly steamed or boiled rice.

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Send us a tip on your favourite UK tree for a chance to win a £200 holiday prize | Travel

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“Conkers shining on the ground/The air is cooler…” The opening lines of a song by the band Stornaway capture the essence of autumn for children and big kids alike. In 2017, the Royal Society of Biology invited the public to vote for their favourite UK tree species – and the horse chestnut won. Now we learn that England’s tree of the year in 2015 has been felled to make way for the HS2 rail line. Trees matter – to the planet and to us. Many of the contributors to a new book, For the Love of Trees, talk of how trees help calm their minds and keep them grounded. Experiencing this connection with nature has never been more important than in the current crisis.

We’d like to hear about your tree stories – perhaps you’ve loved them since you climbed them as a child, or perhaps you’ve only started to give them any thought during lockdown. Tell us about your favourite tree and its location, why it matters to you, and if at all possible please supply a photo of it, too – though it is your words that will be judged for the competition. Keep your tip to about 100 words.

The best tip of the week, chosen by travel expert Tom Hall, will win a £200 voucher for a stay at a Sawday’s property – the company has more than 3,000 in the UK and Europe. The best tips will appear on the Guardian Travel website, and maybe the paper too.

We’re sorry, but for legal reasons you must be a UK resident to enter this competition.

If you do send photographs please ensure you are the copyright holder.

The competition closes on 27 October at 9am GMT

Have a look at our past winners and other tips

Read the terms and conditions here


If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here.


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Autumn seems to come later these days – is the climate crisis to blame? | Autumn

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I’ve noticed that trees begin turning colour much later in autumn in recent years, and don’t begin to drop their leaves until late October or November. Our mulberry tree was always “last to come, first to go” but not in recent years; the apple trees are later too. Is this another aspect of the climate emergency? Has anyone else noticed this?

Jill Bennett, St Albans, Herts

Post your answers – and new questions – below or email them to [email protected]


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‘It’s literally the perfect knife’: Dan Hong on the three most useful objects in his life | Food

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How does a chef get through one of the most challenging times the hospitality industry’s ever faced?

For Dan Hong, it’s been a chance to get buff.

The Merivale executive chef – behind restaurants including Mr Wong, Lotus, Queen Chow – hopped on the phone to tell us about the most helpful things in his life right now.

The My Fitness Pal app

Every couple of years I go in phases of gaining weight and losing weight. I first started using this app five years ago. I started going to the gym, I got a trainer and I lost a lot of weight – 12 kilos.

But then, Covid made me gain eight kilos. At first, I was drinking a lot. So, for the last nine or 10 weeks I’ve been on a massive diet and not drinking. I decided at the beginning of July I wanted to lose weight. And the only way for me to really see results is to record every calorie I put in my body – not everyone is like this, but for me, it’s essential.

A lot of people think they’re eating healthy but they’re not. They think “I can still eat olive oil, I can still eat a poke bowl”. You can still eat carbs and oils and stuff, but you have to know when to stop, and recording it really helps.

Of course it’s difficult as a chef, to really commit, because I was always travelling. If I was going overseas or interstate I’d be eating a lot. So this was the perfect time to start, because I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Kiwi knives

Someone chopping baby corn with a wooden handled blade.
‘It’s so perfect for what I need to do, from julienning and simple chopping and dicing.’ Photograph: PhotoTalk/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Kiwi brand knife is one of the cheapest knives on the market. They’re available at any Asian grocer, and they come in different sizes for no more than $10. They’ve got wooden handles and they’re super sharp and light. We use them at home and when they go blunt, we just buy a new one.

When I was a second year apprentice we had this French-Canadian chef who’d just come back from a stage (an internship) at El Bulli, he told me about them. This was in 2002 and they were $2 each. I’d been spending hundreds of dollars on knives – so this was a revelation.

It’s so perfect for what I need to do, from julienning and simple chopping and dicing. They last quite a while, if you use them every day they stay sharp for a month. Once they go blunt, you can just buy a new one. I’ve used them all through my career. I would always have a box of them in the draw in the office, a stash.

If you go to Thailand, all the street food vendors use them too.

It feels good to have something so cheap that works so well. It’s nothing against good knives. If you look at sushi chefs for instance, you just can’t do your job with a Kiwi knife. It’s the same for butchering. But for simple at home chopping jobs, it’s literally the perfect knife.

Magnesium tablets

I find it hard to sleep every night, especially with the amount of training I’ve been doing. I have aching muscles every now and then, and magnesium really helps to relax them, so I can have proper sleep and a clear mind.

Not drinking helps too. I like this, rather than trying to take melatonin or something that makes you drowsy, because this way you wake up feeling really refreshed.

Taking them is an old personal trainer thing – they always recommend it when you first start working out. Now, it’s pretty much become ritualised for me. It’s not that I notice a big, big difference when I take them, but I do notice I have a deeper sleep and I’m not waking up in the night as much.


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