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Fuschia Dunlop's "Every Grain of Rice" and the search for real Chinese 香乾 (xiang gan/smoked tofu)


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Fuschia Dunlop's "Every Grain of Rice" and the search for real Chinese 香乾 (xiang gan/smoked tofu)

Mr Taster | Jan 27, 2013 04:47 PM

Her new book is great. It's not expressly about Sichuanese cooking, though she's included some of those recipes (some vegetarian versions of favorites from "Land of Plenty"). And although the book is vegetable focused, it is by no means a vegetarian cookbook. It's about preparation of traditional dishes from across China, where poverty and practicality made meat the condiment rather than the focus.

The book is practical as well as gorgeous, with lots of excellent photography that serves a greater purpose than just salacious food porn. There are many photos of the staple ingredients, practical to the Chinese cook, but esoteric to the foreigner, which makes tracking them down at the Chinese supermarket a hell of a lot easier.

One item I wasn't able to find on a cursory exploration at 168 on Las Tunas is 香乾, or firm smoked tofu. It's very similar in appearance to the spiced tofu (五香豆腐乾/wi xiang doufu gan) which you can find at any Chinese supermarket, but instead of being simmered in a five spice broth, it's smoked.

The photo of the particular brand of smoked tofu used in the book is quite strange, in that it doesn't appear to have any Chinese characters on it. Dunlop goes on to say in the description that it can be found at health food stores "as well as some Chinese supermarkets", which sounds awfully weird to me for what is ostensibly a Chinese ingredient. Adding to further confuse the issue, my Lovely Tasting Assistant™ (LTA), who is Taiwanese, had no idea what this stuff was. (We did find some mock smoked tofu duck, which looked like it could serve in a pinch- if anyone has tried this, how does it compare in flavor and texture to xiang gan?) But I'd really like to buy a Chinese 香乾 rather than a hippie health food store brand, which may or may not taste like its supposed to.

For what it's worth, the brand photographed in the book is "Viana" ("Listen to your heart!")

Any tips for finding an actual Chinese brand of the stuff?

Thanks 'hounds.

Mr Taster

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