Tofu Pudding Rice Noodles
If you take a stroll in the streets of Kunming, you will probably find small restaurants in almost every street corner that are making there business on rice noodle related foods. I grew up eating rice noodles almost every day and some days more than one time, there were just so much options that I could never get bored of. Among the long list of rice noodle dishes, tofu pudding rice noodles is a traditional Kunming dish that is famous for it´s freshness, spicy and sweet taste. It is also, one of my all time favourite. When I was a kid before my family installed a sola energy hot water tube for showering, my mom always took me to a public bath near home. The hot steam in the bath made us super hungry, there was this tiny street food stand at the entrance area of the public bath, they served only tofu pudding rice noodles and home made pickles, I remember the cost was only 80 cents. It was possibly the most delicious tofu pudding rice noodles in my memory. The public bath was later demolished to build a park, the street stand was also moved, I never find out where.
The original version of tofu pudding rice noodles is vegetarian, from the stories told behind the dish is: the creator is a Buddhist, she came up with the dish spontaneously in to impress her father in law, he was not happy to be visiting her and only served vegetarian dishes. She had to create a flavour based on vegetarian ingredients to challenge the non vegetarian meat toppings, she came up an idea of fresh tofu pudding as topping. Turned out not only her father in law, the whole family was impressed by it, words were spread in the city and very soon she opened her restaurant serving tofu pudding rice noodles. Later, more restaurants serving tofu pudding rice noodles have opened and meat topping was added to the menu.
Since I moved to Europe I’ve tried many ways to prepare this dish even though I have almost non of the original ingredients, in Kunming, the rice noodles are made after a fermentation process, which we call `酸浆米线`, it means soured rice noodles, they are much thicker than other rice noodles. We call them ´thick rice noodles`. They taste very tender and fresh but have a much short life time, only about 24 hours. Usually I select the thickest dried rice noodles to prepare this dish when I am not home in Kunming. For the tofu pudding, I have made tofu pudding from the scratch myself, here in this post, I will use soft tofu instead as the homemade tofu takes longer time and effort. We can talk about tofu making in another post, right now let us keep it simple. For the hot pepper paste, in Kunming we usually us a brand called `汤池老酱´, which is made in YiLiang just out side of Kunming. The CJW hot pepper paste is a good substitute for replacement. For the pickles, the traditional way is to add `冬菜´, which I’ve substituted with packed pickles I found at my local market. There is also one key ingredients to the dish: sweet soy sauce, one we select is called ´拓东酱油´, the sweet soy sauce is made with soy sauce, brown sugar, maltose syrup and different spices. I prepared an easy version by simply use dark soy sauce and brown sugar. All of these reminded me of what my family used to always speak about if a restaurant served `authentic version` of the dish, they are authentic because of every ingredients are made locally. I am very proud that I made the over all flavour quite close to what you could find in Kunming.