My mom was born on Valentine’s Day 1929. Among other brilliant qualities, she was a great cook. The dense daughter that I was, I couldn’t and didn’t pick up any of her remarkable cooking or baking skills, from making Chinese New Year goodies (love letters, kueh bang kit, etc) and bak chang (rice dumplings), to 8-course dinners for the family. But the ONE dish I did learnt from her and is able to cook on my own with much success is Tau Kok Lup.
Cantonese for”diced or cubed beans”, Tau Kok Lup is a typical Chinese only-served-at-home dish comprising long beans, dried tofu, chai po (preserved turnip), roasted peanuts and pork meat, all diced and stir-fried with garlic with a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil for seasoning. It’s a great dish to “get the rice down” (or “xia fan” in Mandarin) and tastes great with either white or brown rice.
I think the original idea came from home-style fried rice which you cook with whatever food or leftovers you have in the fridge. I refer buying fresh ingredients for my Tau Kok Lup. It’s easy to prepare (20 minutes max) and to cook ( 10 mins max), and usually I buy enough that will serve me for two meals. I like dicing the long beans and dried tofu as it can be rather therapeutic. If I’m feeling lazy I will just buy char siew which saves me one step of having to cook the raw pork meat.
Cooking-wise it’s best to stir-fry one item at a time: I start with the long beans with garlic (2 min), then the dried tofu till it turns nice yellowish brown, and later the pork (unless it’s char siew, then you can just add it at the end). Mix the three ingredients, add the chai po, and stir-fry for another 2 minutes before transferring to a serving dish. Sprinkle the peanuts on the top and you are ready to wolf down your rice!
This is our home version but feel free to use any ingredients of your choice – eg, chicken, prawn, carrots, bell peppers or cashew nuts. For me, I feel mom’s combination provides the best mix of taste and flavours.
Thanks Mom and Happy Valentine Birthday. Miss you…