I’ve never actually eaten this dish in China, for some reason – perhaps its rather odd name, “pot collapse tofu” (锅塌豆腐 guō tā dòufu) has stopped me from ordering it thus far. I first tasted it when I put it on the menu of an overly ambitious dinner-with-friends in London about a decade ago.
(The same dinner saw me grappling with a greasy, steaming hot duck that skidded all around my kitchen before I managed to land it in a roasting tin, but this humble tofu dish has still ended up as the most memorable thing from that dinner.)
Slabs of tofu are fried in a simple batter with ginger and spring onions, then doused in stock and simmered for a few minutes until the sauce thickens – quite an unusual technique in Chinese cooking that comes from Shandong Province (home of Tsingtao Beer) on the country’s east coast. The result is tender slices of tofu encased in a tasty coat of softened batter. The ‘softened batter’ aspect of the dish might not appeal initially, but it’s very tasty, and nowhere near as much faff as it sounds…
Check out this Youtube video of two endearing chefs from Beijing making a plate of pot-collapsing tofu.（To watch how the pros flip a hot pan of tofu, fast forward to 4:40.）Love their accents! “一盘儿锅塌豆腐就得了！” 🙂
Guota Tofu 锅塌豆腐
From the market:
220g tofu (see Cook’s notes below)
10g fresh ginger
a few spring onions
From the cupboard/supermarket:
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp cooking oil
Salt and pepper (I used white pepper)
Plain flour or cornflour
1. Slice the tofu into 0.5-1cm thick slabs and lay these out in a single layer on a plate. Sprinkle the slabs with salt, pepper and 1 tbsp of the rice wine and leave while you mince the ginger and finely slice the spring onions – sprinkle these over the tofu too, then leave for a few minutes.
2. Crack the egg into a bowl, beat briefly and set next to your stove along with the flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok over a high heat, swirling occasionally to coat the pan evenly in hot oil. Get organised at this stage, because everything’s about to get messy…
3. Quickly turn each tofu slab in the flavourings, then coat lightly in flour, dip in the egg and slide each slice into the wok, keeping everything in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.
4. Scrape any remaining ginger, spring onions and egg over the tofu and let it fry like this for a few minutes. Give the pan an occasional jiggle to make sure it’s not sticking. Once the tofu is golden on one side you have a choice; you can either flip the whole lot like one big tofu-ey pancake, slide it onto a plate and flip it back into the pan, or turn it over one piece at a time. (I ended up doing a combination of the three – an abortive flip, then a rather shaky plate slide, and finally – for good measure – a quick tidy with a pair of chopsticks.)
5. The end is in sight! Fry the tofu for a few minutes on the second side, then sluice the stock and remaining rice wine around the edges and let the dish bubble away for a few minutes until the juice has thickened. Slide the tofu out of the pan and onto a serving plate then sprinkle with a little sea salt and sesame oil and serve immediately. Enjoy!
The classic recipe for this dish calls for “Northern Tofu” (北豆腐, běi dòufu), which isn’t easy to find here in Hong Kong – the tofu I used came from a big bucket in the market, and falls somewhere between silken and firm on the Tofu Texture Scale.
The dish needs tofu firm enough to withstand a bit of handling, but soft enough to make the final result nice and tender. If in doubt, buy soft tofu and put it on a plate in the fridge for a few hours weighted down with another plate on top of it; this will squeeze out some of the water and firm things up a little.