Wok-fried vegetables and meats are an art form from the Far East. The magic is in getting the wok searing hot so the ingredients flash fry. The Malliard reactions are fast with quick charring while the centers are left untouched or even raw. Proper wok frying gives crisp meats and vegetables, the moment they are soggy you should know that the technique was not correctly implemented.
This is one of those wok-seared dishes that transforms itself into a saucy dish towards the end. The ingredients are simple and the flavour comes from the marinade of vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. The dish is delicate with subtle sweet-sour flavours that are complimented by heat in the after palate. The original recipe calls for earthy black rice but you can use any variety though a heartier red or brown rice will compliment these flavours better.
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For the black rice:
1 cup black rice
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
For the sweet-and-sour sauce:
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
2 tomatoes, finely diced
20 green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pack of extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1-2 jalapeño or green chilli, or to taste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
8-10 garlic cloves, minced
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water + more as needed
Add the black rice to a pot and cook with the water and salt till cooked through but still firm, about 1 hour or more depending on the rice varietal. Do not make the rice soft and mushy. Drain and set aside.
Cut the tomatoes and add to a bowl with the vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. Toss well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch the green beans for 1 minute. Drain and cool in cold water to stop the cooking. You want the beans to turn a bright green but retain most of their crunch.
Heat the oil in a wok on high. Add the green chilli and the ginger and sauté for 20 seconds. Add the onions and peppers and cook till the onions and peppers are soft and beginning to turn golden, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the tomato mix, salt and garlic and mix in well. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the tofu and mix it well. Cook for 2 minutes.
Mix the cornflour into the water till completely dissolved. Add to the wok and stir in well. The sauce will bubble and in 1 minute thicken. Add more water if you desire a more runny stew. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
Serve hot with the rice.