Sweet and Sour Korean Tostadas
Humble roots, humble beginnings, humble foods.
Some of the greatest legends and most iconic foods have come from simplicity and even from scarcity. Buddhist monks, in their quest to help their omnivorous guests enjoy foods beyond their basic state of picked fresh from the garden, created mock meats made out of ingredients like pure wheat gluten and soybean curd. The processes they used to create these items were basic, yet they had, and still have, the power to transform a meal from great to unbelievable.
The mock meats of Asia, China in particular, still seem to be a secret kept from many parts of the world. While they were not the first to make a bleeding veggie burger, they were the first to make products like mock duck and faux fish. And all of this was done without a laboratory or high tech tools, just hungry bellies, lots of time to explore the food they had, and inventive imaginations.
It's this curiosity that led to the creation of foods such as tofu skin, which I have been loving lately (check out my Spicy Hunan Tofu Skin recipe for further proof of this love). I, being a curious cook myself, have been longing to learn more about Korean cuisine lately. Korean food is best known for its BBQ and kimchi, but its much more than that. It's sweet, salty, spicy and fermented flavors take time to delve into and understand. But at its core, I believe good Korean food is just like all good food, something steeped in tradition and that employs fresh local ingredients to produce unique flavors that make eating something much more than what we do to survive.
I had made Korean "bulgogi" tacos once at a cooking workshop and had been wanting to take a crack at doing something a bit different with it. The result was bulgogi style tofu skin tostadas topped with pickled purple cabbage, onions, and chilis, as well as jalapeño coconut cream sauce and micro greens.
This dish is surprisingly easy to make. With its bright colors, sweet and sour combo, and satisfying crunch, it makes for the perfect way to say hello to spring!
Makes 6 Tostadas
"Bulgogi" Tofu Skins
150g tofu skins (can use fresh rolled tofu skins or rehydrated tofu skin pieces)
2 tbs dark sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs freshly grated ginger
2 tbs light soy sauce
2 tbs light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs water (if you don't have tomato paste, just omit and add 2 tbs of water)
1. If using rolled tofu skins, slice into thirds. If using rehydrated dried tofu skins, skip this step.
2. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well so all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add tofu skins and mix well, ensuring all pieces are well coated.
3. Heat a wok or pan over medium high heat, and add tofu and all remaining liquid from the bowl. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until tofu skins are browned and slightly caramelized, but not burnt. Once done, remove from heat and set aside..
Picked Purple Cabbage
1 C shredded purple cabbage
2 cloves garlic, sliced into thin matchstick style pieces
3 spicy red chilis, thinly sliced
1/2 medium purple onion, sliced in half again and thinly sliced
1/2 C water
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan, mix well and heat over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and set aside.
Coconut Jalapeño Cream Sauce
1/2 cup coconut cream (sub full fat coconut milk if you don't have coconut cream or even silken tofu)
2 tbs pickled jalapeño slices
1 tbs lime juice
1/8 tsp salt
1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
You will also need to toast 6 yellow corn tortillas in the oven at 200 degrees C for about 3 minutes. Watch them carefully because they go from not cooked to black in no time if you are not watching.
Lay toasted corn tortillas flat the serving plate and top with equal amounts of "bulgogi" tofu skin and pickled cabbage. Drizzle with coconut jalapeño cream sauce and top with micro greens. Top with additional jalapeños, sesame seeds and sliced scallions or leeks if desired.
It's messy but in the best way possible. Enjoy!