Scholar dishes

“Two important dishes to be eaten on the 1st day of school to symbolise an auspicious start of formal education for schoolers”

How your cooking and dishes would help in your kid’s studies? Nothing about supplementary food or valuable nutrients in the food you cooked, it’s purely our personal belief, or called it a superstition in our family…

I am going to cook these two dishes tonight because today’s the 1st day of school of new grade for my girl. This is a traditional belief inherited from my hubby’s family, to have the scholar dishes eaten on the first day (or second) of school.

I called them the inteligent dishes (聪明菜) as the Chinese pronounciation of  inteligence (聪) and scallion (葱) are the same as “cong”. After taking the dishes to symbolise a good start of school on every 1st day, hopefully the kid will become a scholar in due. So, I have also personally named the dishes as scholar dishes. Whatever you called it, just get the dishes cooked and be eaten by the kid, regardless it helps or not, or you may call me a superstitious freak, I believed that at least it does sort of boost up the confidence level of the kid that she/ he is now becoming cleverer, after taking these auspicious dishes (laughing). It plays a mental support role, too.. In fact, I believed in this ritual, partly because it was “evidenced” by my hubby who took the dishes, cooked by his mon, every year of those 1st school days when he was young. Even though he did not really score with flying colours immediately after taking the dishes or in early primary school, but he finally got his first-class honor in university, and later a Master degree graduate (winking smile).

So, being Chinese who have traditional mind and thinking, like me and my hubby, he insisted on the dishes. And, I think it is better to just follow the ritual than be ‘lazy‘ (anyway, I have to cook dinner.. :p). It has no harm taking these usual meat and tofu dishes, afterall, it’s not as if asking the little one to swallow anything taken of the ashes from burning the Chinese joss stick or talismen or what..

Anyways, I’ll leave it to you to believe or just for your eyes.. or just cook it in usual days (smile). Well, if you are keen, go grab some of these ingredients from the market now for tonight’s or next dinner, I’ve purchased mine this early morning before work!

Tofu and spring onion

Ingredients (Dish 1)
1 block of tofu, slightly firmer type (suitable for stir-frying use)
1 stalk of scallion/ spring onion (葱), cut into 2″ long crosswise
½ small cup of chicken broth or water (about 100ml)
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt and grounded white pepper
1 teaspoon of corn starch with 1 tablespoon of water, made into corn starch slurry
4 tablespoons of cooking oil (for sautéing use, it’s optional!)

Pig's liver with spring onion

Ingredients (Dish 2)
1 piece of pig’s liver (about palm size big), thinly sliced
1 stalk of scallion/ spring onion, cut into 2″ long crosswise
2 small thin slices of old ginger
2 teaspoons of Shao Hsing Hua Diao rice wine (绍兴花雕酒)
2 teaspoons of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon of light soy sauce
½ teaspoon of dark soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon of sesame oil

1 pot of water (for quick blanch)

Method for Dish 11) Cut tofu into chunk cubes. Gently pat-dry tofu with kitchen towel/ paper.

2) Heat wok with oil over high-medium fire. Add tofu and sauté till lightly crisped and browned. Remove from wok and drain on kitchen towel. Set aside.

3) Discard excessive oil and leave just a little of it. Add garlic and stir-fry till fragrant and lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium fire, and then, return tofu to wok. Add chicken stock (or water), and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes. Then, add white pepper, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Gently stir-fry to mix well.

Taste check. If prefer more briny taste (especially if using water instead of broth), add pinch of salt. Otherwise, omit it.

4) Add scallion into the wok. Stir-fry a little together with the rest of the ingredients. Then, pour in cornstarch slurry and gently stir-fry to thicken the sauce. Dish up and serve.

Method for Dish 2
1) Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Heat off when boiled. Place cleaned pig’s liver slices on a strainer, and then, plunge liver in the hot water on the strainer, for 10 – 20 seconds. Shift the strainer occasionally to have the liver blanched more evenly. Drain and set aside.

2) Heat wok with sesame oil over high fire. Add garlic and ginger, stir fry till fragrant. Reduce heat to medium-low fire, add scallion adn stir-fry a little. Then, return pig’s liver to wok, and immediately drizzle Hua Diao rice wine. Then, quickly add in dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar, stir fry quickly (to retain moisture and tenderness) to mix well. Dish up and serve with hot steamed rice.

The recipes were copied to me by hubby’s mom, and I did follow exactly in the first two years of cooking them [** Food pictures were taken from last year's dishes as I am going to cook it again only tonight. However, I wish to share these recipes to you before the day ends, in case you are also keen to cook it tonight.. I'll update to latest photos after tonight's], but this year, I will try to sauté the tofu first to make it slightly crisped, hope that it will be even better taste and texture. You may or may not want to skip this step 2 though.

A decent portion of dish 1, the Stir-fried Tofu & Spring Onion, counts about 100kcal. Mild briny taste of the tofu dish, it is never too sinful to eat more. Sautéed version counts about 180kcal. As for dish 2, simply a dish of Stir-fried Pig’s liver with Scallion/ Spring Onion and Ginger in Dark Sauce, it counts about 270kcal. Taste of this dish was robust and aromatic.

Tips: Do not blanch the pig’s liver for too long to avoid hardening. You have to also cook the liver quickly in order to retain its moisture and tenderness.
* If find it too dry in the wok half-way cooking the pig’s liver dish, you may drizzle some water to moist it.
* Use the whole stalk of scallion including the whitish part, just need to trim away the sandy roots part.

[Post Note: Tonight's cooking.. Sautéed tofu was indeed more delicious than non-sautéed ones. It has completely absorbed the essence of the sauce and makes it much more tastier. To view new photos of Dish 2 and more other photos, log on to my FaceBook Fan Club now. :)]