I have been making a concerted effort to eat less meat and more vegetables for health reasons but also for environmental reasons. Growing up, I never thought vegetables were gross because Chinese and Vietnamese vegetable dishes are so good! This week I thought I’d share a favorite from my mom called red bean curd stir fry. She usually makes this dish for my dad on the days he goes full vegetarian for religious reasons. (He’s Buddhist). She uses a special Chinese condiment called red bean curd that not only gives it this pretty red color but also makes it taste amazing!
What is red bean curd?
Red bean curd is a Chinese fermented bean curd made with soybeans, salt, rice wine, and sesame oil. It is sometimes called Chinese cheese because it has a similar texture to that of cheese. It is often used as a condiment that is served with food or added to dishes like this one!
Red fermented bean curd is made by drying the bean curd, and then it is added to a brining liquid with rice wine and other seasonings. The red color comes from fermented red rice that is combined with the brining liquid. The red rice not only gives the bean curd it’s color but also a very unique flavor.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Tofu – I love adding tofu because it adds more texture to the dish. This is optional. I would use firm tofu since it holds up the best when you fry it. It also doesn’t matter too much how big your tofu are. I would say about 1 inch x 1 inch x 1inch is would you want to aim for.
- Shiitake mushrooms – One of my favorite mushrooms of all time. I usually use dried shiitakes, so I soak them in water for about 10 minutes before using them. To me, there is no difference flavor-wise between fresh and dried shiitakes. Use whichever one works best for you.
- Wood ear mushrooms – Adds some texture to the dish! If you can’t find wood ear mushrooms, I would leave them out.
- Napa cabbage – Cabbage actually has umami flavor! It also adds a bit of texture to the dish. If you can’t find napa cabbage, you can use any kind of green cabbage you can find.
- Soy sauce – Adds umami flavor to the dish. For a gluten free option, use tamari as a substitute.
- Salt and sugar for seasoning
- Red bean curd (and sauce) – Gives the dish a slightly red color and adds a unique flavor to the dish. It’s hard to describe but you definitely either love it or hate it. I obviously love it! In the recipe, I mention that you need both the red bean curd and sauce. The sauce is the liquid the red bean curd comes in. It just adds more flavor to the dish. There are not substitutes for red bean curd.
- Cellophane noodles – Adds some texture to the dish. If you can’t find it, I would leave it out.
- Sesame oil – Adds a smoky flavor to the dish
How to make my mom’s red bean curd stir fry
Fry the tofu. Heat oil to 325 degrees F and fry tofu until it is brown all sides (3-5 minutes). Set aside. Heat oil over high heat in a large pan. Add the shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, and cabbage. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the fried tofu, soy sauce, salt, sugar, red bean curd, and red bean curd brine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Check the vegetables are completely soft. Add the noodles and cook for a minute. Finally add the sesame oil. Mix and serve over white rice!
Tips on how to make the perfect red bean curd stir fry
Make sure to use high heat
Like all stir fry recipes, it is important to cook it over high heat. I learned this lesson from making all my stir fries like my beef and broccoli and mushroom stir fry. If you don’t use high heat, water will seep out from all the ingredients, creating a watery sauce. High heat ensures that excess liquid evaporates as the dish cooks.
Make sure all your vegetables are dry
A big part of this dish is balancing how much liquid is added to the dish. The vegetables already have a lot of liquid, so making sure your vegetables are as dry as possible before cooking ensures your stir fry is not too watery. My mom likes to put the mushrooms and cabbage in the pan first and use the heat to dry them out. She then adds the oil and continues with cooking the rest of the ingredients.
Add less noodles if the dish looks a little dry
As mentioned, the key to a good stir fry is balancing how much liquid is in the dish. Sometimes, the vegetables you get are a little dry, so they release less liquid as they cook. If you think the stir fry is looking a little dry, reduce the amount of noodles you add. The noodles will absorb all the liquid. Alternatively, you can add a little water. I personally prefer the water approach because you don’t have to reduce the amount of noodles you use.
How do you store this red bean curd stir fry?
Store this dish in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Did you make this dish?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
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Red Bean Curd Stir Fry
- 14 oz firm tofu optional, cut into small cubes
- 3 shiitake mushrooms sliced into ½ inch thick pieces
- 3 ½ oz wood ear mushrooms cut into 2 inch strips
- 23 oz Napa cabbage cut into large pieces ~1-2 inches
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 3 red bean curd
- 1 tsp red bean curd brine the liquid the red bean curd comes in
- 3 ½ oz cellophane noodles cut into 2 inch strips
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Fry the tofu. Heat oil to 325 degrees F and fry tofu until it is brown all sides (3-5 minutes). Set aside.
- Heat oil over high heat in a large pan. Add the shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, and cabbage. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the fried tofu, soy sauce, salt, sugar, red bean curd, and red bean curd sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes more. Check the vegetables are completely soft.
- Add the noodles and cook for a minute.
- Finally add the sesame oil. Mix and serve over white rice.