Broccoli, carrot, tofu stir-fry in ginger sauce

February 8, 2010 at 1:09 am (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Chinese, Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

I cannot make Chinese food to save my life. My special talent is ruining stir-fries.  Yet I keep trying.  Today I started with a recipe for stir-fried tofu and bok choy in ginger sauce from Cooks Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe and modified it to fit what was in the fridge.  I ended up with a tofu, broccoli, carrot, scallion, ginger, garlic stir-fry.


  • 1.25 cups short-grain brown rice
  • 14 ounces firm tofu
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 scallions, whites minced and green parts cut into 1/4-inch lengths
  • 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1.5 pounds broccoli, florets and stems
  • 3 small carrots, about 8 ounces

Sauce ingredients:

  • 8 Tbs. boiling water
  • 1 low-salt bouillon cube
  • 4 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. arrowroot
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil


  1. Put the brown rice on to cook.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes.  In a large bowl, toss the tofu with the soy sauce the the sherry.
  3. Prep the aromatics:  Minced the garlic and the whites of the scallion, grate the ginger, and combine in a small bowl with 2 tsp. of oil.
  4. Make the sauce.  Heat the water and pour it into a ramekin with the bouillon cube.  Mix the reamining ingredients in a small bowl.
  5. Prepare the veggies:  Cut the broccoli florets into 1 inch pieces and slice the stem thinly.   Cut the carrots into two inch matchsticks.
  6. Heat 2 tsp. oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat.  Add the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.  Transfer the tofu back to its large bowl.
  7. Add 1 more teaspoon oil to the pan and heat again.  Add the carrots and cook until tender-crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the carrots to the bowl with the tofu.
  8. Add 1 more teaspoon oil to the pan and heat again.  Add the broccoli florets and stems, and cook until the broccoli starts to brown slightly.  Then pour in 1/2 cup water, cover, and let steam for about 3 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green and starting to soften.  Remove the lid and cook until the broccoli is tender and all the water has evaporated, about 2 to 4 minutes.  Add the broccoli to the bowl with the tofu and carrots.
  9. Add 1 more teaspoon oil and the garlic/ginger mixture to the pan.  Mash the garlic mixture into the ban with the pack of a spatula, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.  Whisk the sauce to recombine, then add it, the scallion greens, and the bouillon mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Remove the pan from the heat, add in the tofu and veggies, and toss until all the ingredients are well coated with sauce.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 5.

My notes

This recipe worked fine.  All the veggies came out properly cooked–not too mushy, but not at all undercooked.  The sauce worked as well–it thickened up but wasn’t gloppy, and there was just enough to coat all the tofu and veggies.  I was a little concerned that the broccoli wasn’t cooked with any salt, but the sauce was salty enough that once everything was mixed together the broccoli tasted fine.

Although the instructions were all reliable, the final dish was disappointing.  I could definitely taste the ginger in the sauce, but other than that the flavors were all a bit insipid.  I used bouillon instead of chicken broth, but I suspect that didn’t make a huge difference.  Even with chicken broth I think the sauce would be wan tasting. I think Chinese restaurant stir-fries must just have a lot more oil and sugar and salt in them, and that with 1.5 teaspoons of oil per person, it’s just not going to taste the same.  I wouldn’t make this recipe again.  If you try it, I recommend you add some hot peppers or chili sauce to the sauce. Rating: B-.

Derek wasn’t excited about this dish.  He added toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili sauce, but even after that he said it was “fine”.  Rating: B.

I ate this stirfry for lunch two days in a row (with extra chili sauce), and it was filling and healthy tasting and satisfying.  It made nice leftovers.  I think the flavors actually improved as it sat.

Next time I attempt a stirfry, I’m going to stay far away from cook’s illustrated, and instead take some tips from the blog Tigers and Strawberries, which seems to have lots of good information about cooking authentic Chinese food and stir-fries with tofu.

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