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Fermented Black Bean Braised Tofu, Gumbo Style, with Roasted Okra

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Ingredients

Gumbo

1 cup neutral oil

2 cups flour

2 onions, small dice

2 red bell peppers, diced

½ stalk celery, small dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 2" finger ginger, minced

2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon Sambal chili paste

1 cup fermented black bean paste

3 quarts rich vegetable stock

1 2" piece lemongrass, bruised

1 cup cilantro stems, chopped

1 stick Cassia bark,
(cinnamon stick can be used as a substitute)

1 pod black cardamom

1 teaspoon fermented black beans, rinsed well with cold water

1 lime leaf

1 fresh bay laurel leaf

1 tablespoon fermented red pepper paste

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

To Serve

¼ cup neutral oil

1½ pounds silken tofu, cut into 1" cubes

6 scallions, green tops sliced, whites split lengthwise

6 lunch box peppers, split lengthwise

6 baby turnips, quartered

6 cherry tomatoes, split

9 pieces of okra, split lengthwise

½ bunch cilantro, roughly sliced

Salt to taste

2 cups cooked aromatic rice

Black sesame seeds for garnish

Directions

For the Gumbo

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot, or a cast iron pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until wisps of smoke appear.
  2. Whisk in the flour. Once it is fully incorporated use a wooden spoon to slowly and continuously stir the flour and oil mixture until it reaches a deep chocolate brown, it should smell like toasting popcorn.
  3. Fold in the onions and continue to stir for an additional five minutes. The sugars in the onions will caramelize in the hot roux and turn it black.
  4. Next, fold in the peppers, celery, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, Sambal, and black bean paste.
  5. Toast the aromatics in the hot roux for an additional five minutes.
  6. Switching back to the whisk, work the vegetable stock into the hot roux until fully incorporated.
  7. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the pot to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let cook for as little as 2 hours or all day, stirring occasionally to prevent the roux from scorching.

To Serve

  1. Set a large heavy bottomed skilled or a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Glaze the bottom with the oil and working in batches, so as not to over crowd the pan, roast off the scallion bottoms, peppers, turnips, okra, cherry tomatoes, and tofu – being sure to salt them as needed.
  3. Place the roasted tofu cubes in the bottom of a serving bowl and ladle the hot gumbo over the top.
  4. Garnish the gumbo with two pieces of each roasted vegetable, a spoonful of rice, and finish with sliced scallion tops, cilantro, and black sesame seeds. Serve hot.
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