Mu-Shu a la Wu with Tofu

Mr. Wu wowed me this weekend with Mu Shu with Crispy Tofu.

Oh my, quelle deliciousness! Give me a MU! Give me a SHU. And then give me some crispy fried TOFU! Wrap it all up, and what have you got? Yet another crunchy, zesty, hand-held morsel of joy created by his most excellent cheffness, Mr. Wu.

There are no other Mu-Shu’s like Mr. Wu’s. First, there are his primo ingredients. And then there is that sauce, that fabulous sauce that Mr. Wu concocts that is like makeup for veggies–we are talking transformative.  Like the cabbage he wrapped the red snapper in that time …my, oh my, I must say that Mr. Wu’s expert steaming gives me the vapors!

What I loved about the Mu-Shu with Tofu was the perfect pairing of the crunchy veggies with the custard-like cubes of crispy tofu–which let the veggies do the singing, and allowed the sauce to play an Oscar-worthy supporting role in amping up the entire dish. Wow.  Mr. Wu has taken me to veggie paradise.

Now if I can only talk him into re-branding and changing the name of the Royal Panda to “Shanghai Shangri La”.


A Cartful of Soy

My first stop at the grocery store was the "organic" aisle.

Maybe my trip to the grocery store was generated by a desire to be at one with my fellow Memphians. There is a sort of cohesiveness in the parking lot, an esprit de corps in the bread aisle.

Having never lived where snow is not an everyday occurrence–until now, of course, without having even moved–I don’t know if other peoples in places like New England run to the store everytime the weather person predicts snow. Probably not.

I did buy bread, but only its distant cousin–Ezekiel bread. Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted grains–somehow. In my opinion it only serves to prove that you can make a batter out of just about anything, bake it, and call it bread. But it does serve the same purpose as bread, in that its slices can be the outside of some middle inside, like tuna fish, or tah tah tah tah tah dah tahhhh–a soy or black bean burger.

(Tah tah tah tah tah dah tahhhh is a line from the operapella that the voicestra sings whenever the nobles enter–it is permanently in my noggin now.)

Inspired by Bianca’s taste tests I decided to buy different brands of tofu and decide which I preferred. One seems to have vitamins added, and I am prejudiced against that one because I can take my own vitamins, thank you very much.

The various  soy-based foods purporting to be imaginary hamburgers and cheeses sort of reminded me of when I was a little girl and  I would make pretend cupcakes out of sand, and cookies out of the overgrown squashes that daddy would bring home in a basket from the garden for me to play with–yes, I know, it sounds odd, but with a dull knife, I had ten kinds of fun “cooking” with them.

I went home with a basketful of soy–and a very large salmon, that I guess I will poach and then freeze in segments. Mr. Wu does not cook salmon, and it is something I would like to have from time to time.

Total cost was not too bad either. By the time I bought some more things, like cilantro and some nuts, and with savings of $16, I only spent $125–and I even went home with a small crock pot that was on sale!

If Tofu Could Talk

Mr. Wu's Tofu and Spinach with yellow bean and brown rice.

One of Mr. Wu’s most most photogenic dishes–as well as one of the tastiest and healthiest, is his artistic rendering of dark green spinach, snowy white tofu, and brown rice topped with a nutty  sprinkle of richly hued yellow bean, and  lightly  garnished with a confetti of green onion.

One of Mr. Wu’s gifts as a chef is his ability to create synergistic tastes and textures using simple and ordinary ingredients. There’s quite a lesson to be learned in his treatment of basic elements for me–both as a person and as an artist.

I knew a film producer once who made the pilgrimage to LA when he was young and ambitious. He took a demo reel with him, and when he showed it to someone at one of the major studios, he explained to the bigwig that he had been forced to work with a very limited budget.

“Really?” the exec asked, “Tell me then what you would have done if you’d had an unlimited  budget to work with?”

Leo says that was when the light really dawned for him, and that it was a lesson he would never forget.  Leo suddenly  realized that he could not really think of anything else he would have done differently.

He had to admit to himself  that it was not really a lack of money that had limited him, but his own limitations.

It was the moment that changed his career. He went back home and worked harder and reached for a higher level of creativity and soon  became a sought after film maker and producer.

That’s what Mr. Wu’s tofu and spinach says to me.

It says it isn’t what you have. It’s what you do with what you have.

Mr. Wu’s tofu says, “It’s up to you.”

To see a current demo of Leo’s work:

A Drift in Memories

A photo of me and my pet, "Little Red Hen" that I'd hoped to add to an earlier entry suddenly surfaced in my sifting today.

It was a day spent sifting through drifts of old letters, documents and receipts, sympathy cards, and photos.

I woke up this morning with both ears aching and a scratchy throat, a discomfort  I’ll blame on dusty excavations in an abandoned bedroom. The chore has been easily avoided. There were, and still are other tasks that seem more compelling, more needed per the triage of the day.

Rummaging through the flotsam and jetsam of the accumulated clutter recalls memories. Some are tough to take. The most painful reminders are often the sweetest, sending a shooting pain like sugar to a sore tooth in what is  an excruciating stab to the heart.

And so I stay busy. Very busy. But business, like a balm,  works for me, giving me the chance to take  doses of the past like treatments of chemo and radiation, allowing time between the exposure to my losses.

It’s all good. Stops and starts are okay. Pushing on is what counts.

To read the blog that goes with the photo, go to:

Tofu with Mixed Chinese Vegetables

Funny thing–to get myself back on a really healthy track yesterday, I’d ordered Mr. Wu’s clean and refreshing dish of tofu with mixed greens. Last week included some dietary detours, and it was good to drink tea yesterday and today, and to enjoy the delicate flavors of Mr. Wu’s fresh vegetables.

Tofu by Any Other Name

Tofu with Yellow Bean and Spinach served with Brown Rice

If you are into words, and guess what? I am, then when you run across a word like tofu it gives you pause.

And in that I am also really into branding and imaging,  a little four-letter word like tofu becomes irresistibly challenging. There is sits in all of its stolid, plain jane glory, proclaiming loud as Popeye, I yam what I yam.

Which it so is not. Instead, it seems to be whatever you would will it to be.  Or whatever Mr. Wu wills it to be, which would be different from what our blog friend Bianca over at vegan crunk would wish it to be, vs, what I myself given world enough and time, will want  it to be.  As a foodstuff it possesses Harry Potter like transformative powers–marinate it, press it, blend it, presto!  Despite its unassuming name, tofu packs big voodoo.

Tofu. There the letters sit, forming a little toad of a word, just squatting there and waiting  to be kissed by a marketing genius and turned into a comely prince.

I’ve heard of a company that thought it sounded better spelled backwards than it did forwards. They had some pretty sound reasons for it–but speaking of sounds, for that very reason if applied to “tofu”, it  would only  exacerbate the problem. “Ufot” . No, that would not be good.

“Tofu–it’s the other white meat!” That phrase has already gone to the pigs.

Tonight I was contemplating  the tantalizing nature  of tofu–yes! tantalizing and tofu in the same sentence! we are getting somewhere! Alliteration has been known to cast a spell or two in its day.

When I arrived at Mr. Wu’s  on this blustery and chilly night, Mr. Wu had prepared his truly delectable melange of tofu and mixed vegetables. Now there is a powerhouse congregation of words– all singing loud and proud as a church choir,  “eat it it’s good for you”.

What to do with tofu, how to dress up its virtuous  and  sensible image  and vamp it up with a red dress and attitude?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you couldn’t anyway.

Tofu has made a career out of what it is not.

I’ll never forget what Ruby Wharton said to me one time. We were walking out of a party at the bishop’s home, discussing someone with a well documented life history, and with her characteristic cut-to-the-chase way,  she said, “Well, you know what you got.”

Not with tofu though.

With tofu you never know.  Americans are not much charmed by foods or anything, that is not pretty straight-forward. We look askance at Yankee Doodle Dandy for sticking a feather in his hat and calling it macaroni, and folks who diddle around with tofu and call it this or that fall squarely into Yankee Doodle-ism.

Which puts me in mind of the current political brew of “”tea partiers”. Now who would have thought that tea drinking, which had been the bag of more bohemian types would get a boost from a conservative group? Imagine the uptick of the number of usages of the word “tea”  in this year’s list of most used words! What a boon for Lipton, and  bliss for Celestial–it would be an interesting topic for a thesis to do a study examining the effects of the constant commentary mentioning tea… my guess is that Fox News watchers will be the fastest growing demographic for tea consumption this year and next, just from hearing tea, tea, tea.

Could tofu overcome its wallflower image in common parlance if it was just out and about and seen and in the headlines more often, like so many talked-about celebrities who seem to have no unique talent to recommend them for stardom?

Could tofu have its agent call a network? Arrange a role in a  reality series? Wouldn’t  Paris Hilton be infatuated  with a new best friend who would assume total and unabashed “Paris-ness”? I mean, like, tofu totally has the skill set to take on like whatever! Tofu is hot.  Well. Maybe not.

What do you do with tofu?

Anything and everything.

It is what it is, and it isn’t what it is.

ah. I do love a conundrum.

Me, Wu and Tofu

Little Red Hen was a wonderful bird. Note her noble profile and patient acceptance of my childish hug.

I think I am in the process of redefining comfort food.

Gradually I am beginning to think of  comfort food as food I feel comfortable eating, and right now,  that means I’d have to define it as vegetables, tofu, and fish.

There are already a host of consumer items that no respectful person would purchase, because no one wishes to support corporations or products that harm the environment or victimize the helpless.

After the recent salmonella outbreak, it was “discovered” that the chickens had been warehoused in odious conditions.  Anyone keeping a pet in similar circumstances would instantly have landed in court on animal cruelty charges.

As it so happens, I have a very soft place in my heart for chickens. When I was a child, living in the country, my daddy and I went into town to the feed and seed store and bought 50 chicks. They were very noisy, and we had to build them a special little nursery–I think it was called a brooder, with light bulbs to keep them cozy.

The chicks  required a great deal of care and attention, and it was with some degree of pride we saw them grow up to become  healthy chickens leading productive chicken lives.  Chickens are purposeful creatures, clucking amongst themselves, pecking and scratching (the ground, not themselves), and preening  throughout the day. Then, they sensibly  call it a night and go up to roost so that they can crow and cackle and do it all over again the next day. Left to their own devices, there is a definite order to their lives.

When finally the big day arrived and  they had  reached critical mass,  it was time for the chickens to go to chicken heaven. The next day, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins assembled for a Sunday dinner of fried chicken at my grandmother’s house. Long tables covered with table cloths were set up under the trees end-to-end.  I must have been about six, when I asked my Uncle Olen to “please pass George”.

Now to me, George, who had lived a noble and bucolic life in happy dignity, was better served, so to speak, than the anonymous chicken available by the pound at the supermarket who spent its woeful life in an over-crowded chicken ghetto.

All this to say, that our society may be beginning to see a nexus that will give us all pause as to how much meat–how much chicken–even how much fish– we all consume.  Science is telling us that just as what we pay at the pump is a trivial amount compared to the general and overall  effect emissions have on the planet, so we will begin to ponder the price of  meat farming  and its effect on our general health and to the environment.

I have a vivid memory of the mornings when I would  slip my small hand under the warm feathered body of a hen to collect her egg.  And I have spent many a summer afternoon with the three hens that furnished our family with eggs. Their names were Fluffy, Scrawny, and Little Red Hen, who was  my beloved favorite,  following me around like a puppy.

The American obsession with pets paired with  its odd disregard for the life of the animals they eat is a paradox.  But as the planet and our country and our resources become more limited, it seems to me we had better begin to think  more carefully about how what we eat impacts the world that  our children, and our children’s children, will have to survive in.

To that end, I give a tremendous Green Giant thumbs up to Mr. Wu, who has a way with tofu and vegetables that demonstrates how satisfying and  delicious a meal can be with or without meat. Tonight’s meal of tofu and mixed vegetables was sensational.

The Wu Food Project continues to lead me in a new and exciting direction.

Life is for learning.

–Joni Mitchell