“What do you want to do when you grow up?”
“Wedding planner (without hesitation)…I just absolutely love weddings!”
I love, love, love the feeling of dressing up, and watching the daddy and daughter dances, not to mention the wedding videos. All throughout the day the feeling of romance and love drifting in the air, so evidently bringing optimism and smiles onto people’s faces. It’s definitely my favorite kind of party!
And isn’t it every girl’s fantasy and dream to be in a white wedding gown like Cinderella someday? It was definitely my dream. I spent most of my free time as a child dressing up in long flowy gowns and trudging around the house in my mum’s favorite heels. Everyone wants to feel like a princess. And the wedding day is her one big day to be showered with love, attention and gifts!
Now that it’s summer and it’s prime wedding season, there is a wedding or bridal shower going on almost every single week. You probably think I’m joking! But NO -seriously – I have a pile of 10+ invitations to prove it! Crazy right? I’m going to spend every week in a different part of Utah to attend another friend’s wedding!
The past few weeks have been crazy since Zoe and I have been shopping for dresses and gifts for the upcoming weddings. With zero experience, we have been researching and asking people what to get for wedding gifts!
In the Chinese culture, we always give away red packets of money to the bride and groom as wedding gifts. Money, to us, signifies luck, fortune, prosperity. We were brought up on the idea that paper bills were the foundation of one’s happiness. And so, we even burn paper money at burials and funerals so the deceased can take it with them in the afterlife!
Rather, here in the States, people buy household appliances, furniture, decor as gifts for the newly weds. They actually give physical items or gifts?! (definitely not something I’m used to). And oh boy, let me tell you it definitely requires a lot more thought to prepare a gift that is meaningful to your relationship with the newly weds. But at the moment you see the excitement on the bride’s face as she opens a box with tissue paper – all the effort pays off. So I must say that this gift giving thing, no matter how mind-boggling it can be, is very meaningful.
Its strange how cultures can be so different right?
In the midst of my rather chaotic and hectic schedule, I am honestly surprised that I am able to make it to so many of them. No matter how tired or stressed I am, being at the wedding reminds me of what matters most in life – the people that we love. Seeing how ecstatic my friends are as they slip on that white wedding gown gives me a reason to justify the long hours preparing and traveling to the weddings (even though your feet starts killing you after the first hour of wearing 3″ heels). What better way than to spend time with family and friends than in celebration of someone’s joyous event!
Question for our readers: If any of you have any suggestions what to get we would love to hear it. What makes a good wedding gift?
Since our last Kung Pao Chicken recipe was so popular, we decided to make a vegan version so more people can enjoy this classic stir fry. Its a meal that makes you wonder why you don’t cook more often at home. Weddings are tiring and once in a while when I get to eat something from home I feel rejuvenated.
During a rather slow weekend, Zoe and I made this dish for a couple of girlfriends that came over for dinner. It really blew my mind how good this tasted even with tofu. You would think the soy sauce braised chicken served with ginger scallion sauce or the coconut fish curry or even the crispy scallion pancakes would take the star attention of the evening – BUT NO it was the this vegetarian dish that captured their hearts. Honestly, rather embarrassingly, this was the cheapest/easiest/quickest dish we prepared that evening, yet it was the most popular! (And the recipe is here for those who requested it!)
After sneaking a bite myself before anyone could finish it, I knew why. This dish was bursting full of flavors. I was shocked at how good it was. Yes – completely blown away. I guess you’ll just have to try it to know what I mean!
Ingredients – Serves 2
Adapted from ChinaSichuanFood
- 1 lb firm tofu
- 2 small red chilis (deseeded)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp pureed ginger (1 inch root fresh ginger)
- 3 Spring onions (white part for stir frying, green part for garnishing)
- 1 tbsp + 2 tsp GF soy sauce
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp Chinkiang black vinegar
- 1 tbsp water
Garnish: Roasted Peanuts, Fresh Chilis
How to Make:
- Drain all the water out of the tofu.
- Slice your tofu into large 1″ cubes. (Don’t cut them too small, so the insides will still be moist and soft).
- Mix together all the ingredients for your sauce.
- Heat a pan over medium heat. When the non stick pan is hot enough, add your diced tofu.
- Sear your tofu on both sides. It should take a couple minutes per side. Be patient! I found it easier to use a chopsticks to flip the tofu. Make sure you don’t walk away at this point. Remove and set aside.
- In the same pan, add your chili, garlic, spring onions and ginger. Stir fry till aromatic (1-2 minutes).
- Add in your seared tofu and then pour over the sauce. If your pan is hot the sauce will immediately start to reduce and thicken. Mix quickly! At this point, you can add 1-2 tbsp of water to thin it out. Just allow the sauce to heat through and immediately take off heat or else your tofu will be really dry. (this will only be 1-2 minutes over medium high heat OR you can simmer it gently over low heat).
- Garnish with spring onions and more chili.
How to Serve:
Traditional Method: Kung Pao Tofu is not really an authentic Chinese dish. It is a dish inspired from the original Kung Pao Chicken or 宫保鸡丁. Traditionally it is always made with diced chicken that is marinated and stir-fried with peppers/vegetables and home-made deep-fried nuts like cashews or peanuts. Being a regional dish from Sichuan, it is a very, very hot dish. Sichuan is known for its extremely spicy food. It almost always includes sichuan peppercorns and peppers to create what the Chinese call ” 麻辣” or numbing flavor.
Our Suggestions: For our version, we toned down a lot on the spiciness. Instead of using the traditional Sichuan chilis, we used bird’s eye chilis. You can really use any type that you like and adjust it according to you preference. This is also a veganized version of the traditional Kung Pao chicken which gives vegetarians and vegans the option for having this dish. Most of the time Shaoxing wine and regular sugar would be used. We don’t use alcohol in our cooking so we omitted the shaoxing wine and also used agave/honey. The taste, I have to say, is still pretty authentic and flavorful.
LIKE ANY STIR-FRY DISH IT IS SO IMPORTANT that you only make one batch of this at a time! It is much easier to control and to prepare. You’d rather split this up, because after all “less is more”.
Tip for Stir Frying: You need to make sure the wok/pan is extremely hot. This creates what the Chinese call “wok hei” – which is crucial in creating the best stir-fry!
Vegans: Use Agave/coconut sugar/regular sugar in place of honey. If you are using regular sugar you probably only need half the amount.
Ginger and Scallion: Please use fresh ginger and scallions if you can. That is key to create an authentic chinese flavor.
Nut Allergies: If you are allergic to peanuts cashews is a great alternative. But if you can totally omit nuts in general if you want to.
Vinegar: This vinegar is very commonly used in chinese cooking unfortunately it is not gluten-free. The flavor is fabulous. If you really don’t have it you could try balsamic vinegar which has a similar color and is quite complex in flavor. Note that Balsamic vinegar is more sweet so you may have to reduce the sugar. Another possible option is this recipe: Chinese Black Vinegar Substitute)
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