Sunday, February 21, 2021

Agedashi Tofu


I’ve always loved Tofu, which I am quite sure is because of my Chinese heritage, along with having lived in Japan as a child. I don’t really understand the complaint that Tofu has no flavor, as I personally find fresh Tofu to be delicious. And, it acts a sponge for so many flavors, which makes it a culinary chameleon. My son Stephen shares my love of Tofu and the other day, he made Agedashi Tofu and I promptly made it at my house too since I always have Tofu in my refrigerator  Agedashi Tofu consists of lightly pan fried Tofu squares (coated in either Cornstarch or Potato Starch) that are then bathed in a Agedashi Broth, which is a combination  Dashi stock (made from Kombu and Bonito Flakes) and seasoned with Tamari, Mirin, a hint of Sugar and Stephen's special touch: some grated Ginger. You can use instant Dashi Broth if you like too. There is so much umami flavor in this dish and it has the wonderful contrasting textures of the crispy coating and the soft and creamy center bathed in a delicious broth. Sprinkled with very thinly sliced Green Onions and Bonito Flakes and other toppings of your choice, it is also a beautiful dish. Agedashi Tofu is so good that I had to share the recipe with you!


Agedashi Tofu


Dashi Stock (make ahead)


2 cups Water

1 3 – 4 inch square of Kombu

1/2 cup Bonito flakes


Place the Water and Kombu in a small pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then remove the Kombu Piece. Add the Bonito Flakes and bring back to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve before using. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Or make 2 cups of instant Dashi Broth. 


Agedahi Broth:

1 cup Dashi Stock (recipe above) 

2 Tablespoons Tamari

2 Tablespoons Mirin

1/2 teaspoon Sugar

A pinch of grated Ginger

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat.


For the Tofu:


1 carton of Soft Tofu, drained, cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters to make 8 squares

1 teaspoon Salt 

¼ teaspoon White Pepper

½ cup Cornstarch or Potato Starch

½ cup of Vegetable Oil (I used High Heat Safflower)


Place the Tofu on a paper towel covered plate and top with additional paper towels. Pat lighty to dry and remove the paper towels. Then sprinkle the Tofu pieces lightly with Salt and Pepper on each side. 

Put the Cornstarch or Potato Starch in a shallow bowl and coat each Tofu piece.


Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the Tofu when the oil shimmers.  Cook the Tofu until it is browned and then turn over very carefully. Fry that side until golden brown.


Heat the Agedashi Broth and pour into 4 small bowls. Add 2 pieces of fried Tofu and top with Green Onion slices and Bonito Flakes and any other topping of your choice. Serve immediately.



Finely sliced Green Onion tops

Bonito flakes

Optional: Nori flakes, more grated Ginger, grated Daikon, a sprinkle of Shichimi Togarashi

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Metal Element because of its white color, but because it is made with Soybeans, it also involves the Water Element. There are plenty of other Water foods in this dish too, starting with the Bonito Flakes and Kombu Seaweed along with the Tamari. More Metal foods can be found in the Green Onions (which also has some Wood) and the Daikon if you add it. The Earth Element is found in the Cornstarch or Potato Starch and the Ginger contributes even more. The Fire Element is found in the Mirin and the Shichimi Togarashi (if using). So only the Wood Element needs support, so be sure to serve some green vegetables as part of the meal. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Vegetarian Eight Treasures Stir Fry


5 Element Food is 11 years old today!  I started this food blog back in the Year of the Tiger on Chinese New Year's Day and today is Chinese New Year's Day in the Year of the Metal Ox. So, Happy New Year!  If you'd like to read this year's forecast, please go to my website - Lotus Institute

And as always for Chinese New Year, it is very important to make Lucky Foods to eat. The good news is that you actually have two weeks to eat a lot of lucky foods (see the Chinese Lucky Foods page on the upper right hand corner of this blog). Today, I made a Vegetarian Eight Treasures Stir Fry because it incorporates eight lucky foods and it's delicious too!

Although some of the ingredients in this dish may seem very exotic, they are actually quite easy to find in Asian markets and some of the ingredients are even easy to find in your local supermarket. If you don't have any of the ingredients, improvise as there are so many lucky foods to choose from! Of course, you can add more than eight ingredients too just as long as you have at least eight lucky ones. If you add more, you will probably need more of the Seasoning Sauce. Both Mushrooms and Tofu soak up the flavors so check before adding any additional Tamari as you don't want this dish to be too salty. If you want the sauce to cling to the ingredients, be sure to add the Cornstarch at the end of the cooking time.

This is a classic stir fry with several of the ingredients needing to be rehydrated ahead of time. Just pour boiling water over the dried ingredients and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Once everything is sliced up, it only takes a few minutes to cook them all in a wok with a little oil with the addition of a little vegetable broth to soften the vegetables up and then you season it all lightly with Tamari and and a drizzle of Sesame Oil. Served with rice, it's a perfect way to celebrate Chinese New Year. And, Happy New Year to you all!

Vegetarian Eight Treasures Stir Fry

1 cup of thinly sliced Pressed Tofu

1 cup of sliced Shitake Mushrooms, rehydrated

1/2 cup of Wood Ear Fungus (Mu'er or Black Fungus) rehydrated - about 1/4 cup dried

1/2 cup of rehydrated Day Lily Flowers (about 1/4 cup dried)

2 Celery Stalks, trimmed, cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths, then sliced into thin shreds

2 small Carrots, trimmed and peeled, cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths, then sliced into thin shreds

1 cup of Bamboo Shoots (canned or fresh) cut into thin shreds

1 cup of Green Onions, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths and thin sliced into thin shreds

3 Tablespoons neutral tasting Vegetable Oil (I use Safflower)

Optional Vegetable Ingredients, which are also lucky: Shredded Napa Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, sliced Red Pepper, Noodles, thinly sliced Leeks and/or Garlic Chives.

Seasoning Sauce:

1/2 cup Vegetable Broth

3 - 4 Tablespoons Tamari (taste the dish before adding the last Tablespoon of Tamari)

1 teaspoon Sesame Oil

1/2 teaspoon Sugar

pinch of White Pepper

Optional Sauce Ingredient:  1 teaspoon up to 1 Tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce

Optional:  1 teaspoon Cornstarch combined with 1 Tablespoon of Water

In the liquid measuring cup, combine the Vegetable Broth, Tamari, Sesame Oil, Sugar and White Pepper along with the Chili Garlic Sauce (if using)

Heat a wok or large frying pan. Add the Oil and then add in the pressed Tofu slices. Cook, stirring and tossing for a few minutes and then add in the Carrots, Mushrooms and Celery (and any other vegetables you want). Cook until they start to get a little soft. Then add in the Bamboo Shoots, Green Onions, Wood Ear and Day Lily pieces. Continue to toss until all the ingredients get hot. The add in the Sauce mixture and Cornstarch (if using)and continue to toss until the Sauce is mostly absorbed or thickened. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Metal Element although it is made with Soybeans so it is part of the Water Element too. The Shitake Mushrooms along with the dried Black Fungus, Tamari and Sesame Oil all add more of the Water Element. More Metal comes from the Green Onions, which also has some Wood in it. The Wood Element is also represented by the Celery. The Earth Element is found in the Carrots. Only the Fire Element is deficient, represented by White Pepper. This can be fixed by using some Chili Garlic Sauce or adding some Red Pepper slices. With so many ingredients, it was likely to be a pretty balanced dish and it is!  

Friday, January 29, 2021

Gluten Free Scones with Dried Fruit

At the end of 2019, I went to Cornwall with two of my closest friends and had a wonderful time. Who knew that it would be my last overseas trip for over a year? One of my best memories is of going to a wonderful bakery and getting fresh out of the oven Gluten Free Scones. St. Ives was very Gluten Free friendly - they even had fantastic Gluten Free Fish and Chips!  I've been thinking about those scones with the Clotted Cream and Jam ever since, so today I decided to make them and they turned out perfectly! I buttered them since I didn't have any Clotted Cream, and then took my first bite without any jam and it was so good that I just ate the whole thing! I ended up putting Sour Cherry Jam on the second one accompanied by a big cup of English Tea. I was so happy with the recipe that I wanted to share it with you. A few notes: they are best eaten the same day as they are made as they do dry out, although heaping them with Clotted Cream might help. And, traditionally in Devon and Cornwall, they are served with either Raspberry or Strawberry Jam and people there have quite strong opinions on which is better. I used Sour Cherry, which is not usual and I like Ginger Jelly on scones too, so I am definitely considered a rebel!

I added in some Dried Cherries, but you can easily use Raisins, or cut-up Apricots or pieces of Candied Ginger. I made them in the traditional round shape like the ones I had in Cornwall, but you can certainly shape them and cut the into triangles or you can use a scone pan. The way you shape them doesn't really matter. What's important is that scones hot out of the oven,  cut in half and topped with Butte or Clotted Cream and Jam are divine! 

 Gluten Free Scones with Dried Fruit 

1 cup Gluten Free Flour Blend (with Xanthan Gum included or add 1 teaspoon)

2 Tablespoons Sugar + a little extra for the top

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

¼ teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes

1/3 cup Dried Fruit of your choice 

1 large Egg

¼ cup Milk (I used Oat Milk) + 1 - 2 Tablespoons extra if needed

½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  


Mix together the GF Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder and Salt. Add in the Butter and mix into the flour mixture with a Pastry Cutter or use your finger to break the Butter into little flour-covered crumbles. Add in the Dried Fruit


In another small bowl, mix together the Egg, Milk and Vanilla.  Stir into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add more Milk if needed.  The mixture should be soft and sticky. Let the mixture rests for 10 minutes.  


Grease 5 holes in a Whoopie Pie Pan (with 3” indentations) with Butter or cooking spray.  Scoop up a scant ¼ cup of batter and drop into 4 or 5 indentations. Pat down to fill the hole. Or shape them into 4 balls and put onto a parchment lined baking sheet and press down slightly. 


Or, pour the dough onto the middle of a parchment lined baking sheet and mound into a circle. Cut into 4 pieces and separate the triangles with the knife to move them apart a little.  Or use a scone pan. 


Sprinkle with the extra Sugar (if desired) and place in the oven. Cook for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. The triangular scones may take a bit longer.  Serve with Butter, Clotted Cream and the Jam of your choice. 

Five Element Analysis

The Gluten Free Flour Blend that I used is made mostly of Rice Flour, which belongs to the Metal Element and further enhanced by the Butter, Baking Powder and Vanilla Extract.  The Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Starch and Potato Starch in the flour adds even more Earth as does the Sugar. The Egg adds the Water Element and the Dried Cherries contribute the Fire Element and because they are tart, a little bit of Wood too. I served them with even more Sour Cherries in the form of Jam, which is Earth and Wood along with Tea, which is Fire to create a somewhat balanced Tea Time treat!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sunomono Salad


This was the version of Sunomono Salad that my son Stephen made to go with the Miso Glazed Cod in the previous post. The big surprise for me was that he added Mirin to the dressing and it was so good!  I think the key to this salad is slicing the Cucumbers really thin so they get thoroughly saturated with the dressing. And the Wake retains a bit of a rubbery crunch while the Sesame Seeds add even more. I love this version of Sunomono and will be making it a tot more!

Sunomono Salad 


1 large Hot House Cucumber or 3 or 4 small Persian Cucumbers

1/4 teaspoon Salt

2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1 teaspoon Lemon Juice 

1 teaspoon Tamari

1Tablespoon Mirin

2 teaspoons Sesame Seeds

1 Tablespoon dried Wakame Seawood


Place the Wakame in a bowl and cover with water and let soak until rehydrated – about 10 minutes. Drain and add to a salad bowl.


Slice the Cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with a small spoon (you can skip this step if you like round slices). Then using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice the Cucumber into very thin slices. Add to the salad bowl and sprinkle with Salt and toss to coat. 


In a small mixing bowl, stir together the Rice Vinegar, Ponzu Sauce (or Lemon and Tamari) and Mirin. Stir to combine and pour over the Cucumber and Wakame. Toss to coat and let marinate at room temperature. When ready to serve, use a slotted spoon to scoop into individual bowls and sprinkle them all with the Sesame Seeds.

Five Element Analysis

Cucumbers belong to the Earth Element but they have a bit of Wood too, since they are green.  The Lemon and Vinegar bring in even more of the Wood Element. The Wakame and Sesame Seeds contribute the Water Element and the Mirin adds some Fire too. Only the Metal Element is missing, but since Rice sas one of the side dishes in the meal, it completed the balance of elements.

Miso Glazed Cod

Japanese cuisine is one of my favorites. It is most likely because I spent my early years in Japan, but there is also something just so lovely about the way the Japanese cook and present food that makes me happy. That's beside the fact that everything is so delicious. When I used to go out, which I hope will happen again soon, I would often order Miso Glazed Black Cod with Rice and a side order of Sunomono - Japanese Cucumber Salad. So one night I decided to recreate it at home. The problem was the I didn't have any Black Cod but I did have some frozen Pacific Cod in the freezer and decided to use that instead. I actually forgot to look and see how much was in the package (it was from Costco and I froze it in separate pieces). So, I just cut up 2 of the pieces (they were big) into a total of 5 segments and coated them with a Miso glaze before I put them in the broiler. 

My son Stephen was over so he made a Miso Glaze similar to the one from Nobu, but he changed the amount of everything and added a bit of Tamari to make it more savory. It didn't take very long for the Cod to cook, but I tend to like my fish to be firm so we cooked it for a total of about 10 minutes, glazing at the 5 minute mark and then again at the end. We sprinkled on some Green Onion pieces before serving and it was a beautiful dish. Can I just tell you how happy I was?  I didn't miss the Black Cod at all. In fact, I think I might like using Pacific Cod even more because it's less oily. You might want to cook yours for a little less time, but I do recommend this way of cooking Cod - it was just so delicious!

Miso Glazed Cod

4 - 5 pieces of Pacific Cod

3 Tablespoon Sake

3 Tablespoons Mirin

3 Tablespoons Light Miso Paste

3 Tablespoons Sugar

1 teaspoon Tamari

3 Tablespoons minced Green Onion 

Heat the oven to Broil. Place the Cod on an aluminum foil lined baking pan. In a small frying pan, mix together the Sake, Miring, Miso Paste, Sugar and Tamari. Heat on low until the Sugar dissolves. Then take off the heat. Brush the Cod pieces two times. Place in the broiler and cook for 5 minutes, remove from the oven and brush the Cod again.  Cook for another 3 - 5 minutes and remove from the oven. Brush with remaining glaze and sprinkle with the Green Onion pieces. Remove Cod to a plate to serve. 

Five Element Analysis

Fish of any kind belongs to the Water Element, but white fish add a touch of the Metal Element too and the Green Onions contribute a bit more along with some of the Wood Element. The Miso and Tamari add even more Water. The Sake and Mirin contribute the Fire Element and the Sugar brings in the Earth Element. While not completely balanced, all the Elements are certainly present so it's just a matter of enhancing the Earth and Metal Elements which was accomplished by the side dishes of Rice (for Metal) and Sunomono Cucumber Salad (Earth).

Friday, January 8, 2021

Simple Carrot Salad

I'm one of those people who like raw Carrots much more than cooked Carrots, unless they are made into a soup. The other night, I needed something a little fresh and tart to go with a rich main course so I decided to make a very simple Carrot Salad. It is made with just shredded Carrots, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil along with a bit of Salt and Cumin and a little bit of grated Onion too. It was so good that I made it again the next night!  Even my son gave it the seal of approval, which means a lot as he's to a Salad lover, like me.  So, if you need a fast, easy and delicious fresh Carrot Salad, try this one!

Simple Carrot Salad

4 large Carrots, trimmed, peeled and grated

1 large Lemon, juiced (about 5 Tablespoons)

1/3 cup of Olive OIl

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/8 teaspoon ground Cumin

1/2 Tablespoon (2 teaspoons) grated Onion

Optional: a pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 15 minutes or longer to marinate,

Five Element Analysis

Carrots, as root vegetables belong to the Earth Element and they are naturally sweet too. The Lemon Juice and Olive Oil add in the Wood Element and the Cumin brings in just a touch of the Metal Element with the Salt contributing some Water.  Only the Fire Element is missing, so you can add some Cayenne Pepper or serve this salad with a main dish that's made up of Fire foods.