Perfect College Food for Asian Kids Who Miss Home Cooked Meals!
I don’t know about you but one of the things I missed the most when I was in college was a bowl of nicely steamed fragrant rice and some good old fashion Chinese home cooking. I didn’t want anything fancy, just simple, satisfying, and easy. Since my folks were up in San Fran and I was living in LA while I was attending USC, I couldn’t really drive home for home cooked meals. So what I did instead was create dishes for myself that was easy to make and stored well so that I could reheat it and eat it over 2-3 days. In college, the two most important things for me when it came to cooking, was quick and easy without sacrificing taste or flavor. One of my favorite things to make for my roommates and I, was the Claypot Curry Mapo Tofu w/ Ground Chicken. This dish is insanely satisfying because of all the spice and seasonings that is mixed into the chicken and tofu, making the broth especially tasty: it makes you want to eat 3 bowls in one sitting. The fact that it is very much like a stew makes it the perfect dish for storing and reheating without losing the quality or texture of the dish. The spice and curry also helps make me feel more satisfied on those rough days of studying late at night. Nothing like coming back to a nice bowl of hot rice topped with some delicious curry mapo tofu to end your evening.
Note: All the ingredients in this dish can be found at a large chain supermarket such as Safeway, Ralph’s Etc. No need to go to a specialty market or Asian market. We want to make it as easy as possible for the college student.
Claypot Curry Mapo Tofu w/ Ground Chicken (Shortcut College Version) Serves 4
Mapo Tofu Seasoning Packet (can be found in Asian or Spice section of Supermarket)
1 lb ground chicken (can also use any other kind of ground meat such as turkey, beef or pork)
1 container of silken soft tofu cubed
1 can of chicken stock
1 bunch of green onions
1 small green bell pepper
2 teaspoon minced or julienned ginger
Optional (I put shelled edamame in my tofu to give it some texture but it is not necessary. You may not find frozen pre-shelled edamame in large supermarkets)
4 cups steamed white rice
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Steamed White Rice:
1.5 cups of long grain rice
2 cups water
• In medium pot, add your rice and the 2 cups of water. Let it come to a gentle boil and then turn heat to low. Put the lid on top and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
• Turn heat off and fluff the rice a bit with a fork and put the lid back on for another 5 minutes. Serve when you are ready to have your meal.
•Get your rice going first by cooking it in either a rice cooker or a regular pot (instructions for cooking rice in regular pot is above)
• I used a clay pot for the map tofu but most students probably don’t have clay pots, so you can you use a regular medium sized pot.
• Turn the heat on high and drizzle some oil in the pan. Once hot, throw in your ground chicken, curry powder, cumin, and ginger. Sauté until your chicken starts to turn brown, then add your tofu, the chicken stock, the bell peppers, edamame (if you are using it), and the mapo tofu seasoning packet. Let it come to a boil first then turn the heat down and let it simmer with the lid on.
• After you let it simmer for 5 minutes remove the lid and turn the heat back up. You want to let the flavors of the mapo seasoning really penetrate and cook through the chicken and the tofu. Flavors will be much more intense if you let it cook and boil longer. The liquid will also evaporate a bit, making the stew richer.
• Taste your stew and season with salt and pepper if necessary. If you like it spicier, add sambal oelek, chili oil, or siracha. Top your dish with some freshly chopped green onions.
Tips for storing and reheating:
As college students and even now I can’t live without Tupperware or glassware for storing food. In college however, I mainly had the cheapo Tupperware which I used religiously to store all my food in. You can store the leftovers of this mapo tofu dish in one container and store the rice in another. When you are hungry, simple scoop the rice into a large porcelain bowl and pile on some of that mapo tofu on top of your rice. Cover with saran wrap and heat it up (2-5 minutes depending on how powerful your microwave is). Yes it’s that easy. Dinner in less than 5 minutes if you make extra of this dish and store enough for the next few dinners. You can even keep your leftover chopped green onions in Tupperware and use it over the span of 2 -3 days. That way nothing goes to waste and it looks like you made the dish from scratch all over again with the green onion garnish. LOVE IT!