Mackerel, Miso, Eggplant + Tofu, and Shanghai Bok Choy

I love having a small dining table. I got this table pretty recently, and I am just loving having it in the living/dining room. It sure beats TV trays.

I don’t know how you do it in your house, but I enjoy setting the table now. And by “setting the table” I mean come out of the kitchen with a dish in each hand while going “HEY! Can you clear off some of this crap so I can get some SPACE?!” to Albany John while he plays video games. I find this to be a very effective way to clear the table.

This is pretty-crap less. Let me detail it out for you. On the top left there’s a half-empty soda jar that’s from the day before (still good) and a pen. His & Her PBR cans next to some flowers I picked from my garden (really sparse, but pretty, damnit!), and an XBOX game cover behind that, followed by a glass of bourbon I’ve had out for, like, two days (I have no excuse for not finishing it other than laziness), and a bottle of chipotle tabasco sauce that’s a permanent table fixture.

Food-wise, we’re looking (left to right) at Eggplant & Tofu, Shanghai bok choy, vegetarian miso soup, and broiled mackerel.

I went unnecessarily grocery shopping at the Asian Food Market earlier in the day (I went to the Asian Supermarket first, but didn’t like what they had), and picked up some thai eggplant for $1.39/lb. I’ve been jonesing for eggplant, and at this price – hooray!

I made a dish with fresh tofu, kind of like my friend N made for me a while back.

Tofu & Eggplant
2 bricks fresh tofu, pressed for an hour or two
Char ~6 thai eggplant, peel skin off when cool (hint: fondue fork + eggplant + gas stovetop). Chop and set aside.
1/2” ginger, peeled and minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T oyster sauce
1 T soy sauce
1-2 T sesame oil
Dash of oil for cooking

Heat up a pan, add a dash of oil and sauté garlic & ginger until fragrant. Add eggplant. (If the eggplants are still a little firm, add some water to cover the bottom of the pan, cover, and let it cook for a few minutes until the eggplant soften up).

Crumble tofu into pan

Add soy sauce and oyster sauce

Stir well; let it cook a minute to combine flavors.Take off heat and add sesame oil.

It was creamy goodness – boxed tofu just can’t beat fresh sometimes. And that toasty sesame oil just brings it up a notch. Toasted sesame seeds on top wouldn’t hurt either. This is one of those dishes that makes me wonder why I don’t make it more often, especially when it’s a frugal but satisfying dish to make. I got four bricks of tofu for $1.80 (so only $0.90 for the dish), and didn’t use very much eggplant at all. I’d give this a very generous estimate of $1.75 for a total cost of ingredients.

I got mackerel for $1.99 per pound. These two fishes were only $2.09! And the guy at the fish counter was shockingly nice. The Asian Food Market wasn’t the place I’d associate with great customer service( or a staff that spoke much English) but they’re really changing it up lately.
I practically had to promise the young man at the fish counter that I’d be rushing home right after shopping here and didn’t really need ice in a separate bag. And that was after he insisted on getting some freshly killed mackerel out of the back because he didn’t want me to get the older ones up front. Okie dokie with me! The first time I got fish here (years ago), the guys behind the fish counter didn’t speak a word of English, were really rude, and didn’t scale or gut the fish for me. So yeah, this was kind of a shock, but in a good way.

I hear that mackerel aren’t overfished or anything, so I can enjoy them guilt-free.

I let this sit for an hour or so in equal parts soy sauce and dry vermouth, plus some ginger and a dash of sugar. I really wanted to grill them over charcoal, but I cook slowly as hellll, so I popped them in the fish grilling thing that usually sits and collects dust and hair, and popped it in the broiler for a few minutes on each side. Worked like a charm.

They had Shanghai bok choy on sale for $0.69/lb at the AFM. SIXTY NINE CENTS PER POUND!!! There was even a lady stocking the veggies trying to get me to buy the smaller baby bok choy for $1.29/lb, but I was all “No, I’m cheap” “No thanks, I’m good with these”. I probably could have tried my Chinese, since I know “no” and “thank you”.

Think of them like baby bok choy on steriods. They’ve got a similar leaf structure, but they’re the size of a small football. I just peeled the leaves off and cooked them with garlic, ginger, and a bit of water (to soften). I used to seriously mess up Chinese greens and cook them into mush, but now I think I’ve got it down on how to keep them firm, but cooked. Maybe I’ll do a tutorial later on, would you like that? It’s one of those easy, but hard to first grasp concepts. Or at least it was for me.

So yeah, that was dinner. Oh, the miso soup was just seaweed broth and miso – no bonito in our house, so we left it out. I think Albany John would mainline miso soup if he could.

  1. Have you made yr bok choy w/ broth? Just curious if it would enhance the flavour of it (like when I blanch Swiss chard)

  2. p – Yup – it's really yummy with broth and garlic! I've just found that for the amount I cook and the doneness I like, it's not worth opening a can for since I don't use much of it. (So I just add extra garlic to boost the flavor!)

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