Chinese-influenced Dishes

I used to shy away from tofu because it looks bland and tastes bland when eaten as is. But like a blank canvass, it can taste and look great when you add flavorings such as spices and herbs.

There are many recipes on the web, but I’m not sure if there’s an original creator of this dish that I thought of cooking this weekend. If there is, then, I must thank you for also thinking the same way about tofu – the sometimes ignored or overlooked food item.

Here in the Philippines we usually use tofu as an ingredient for vegetable dishes such as those that are sauteed and cooked with sauces. There is strong influence of Chinese cuisine whenever tofu or tokwa is being cooked, seasoned, and served.  Much like the vegetable dishes that Pinoys have tried and tested over the centuries of preparing and eating dishes from our Chinese ancestors.

One of the many Chinese veggie dishes I like is the Pinoy style chop suey because the vegetables are crunchy and very tasty – thanks to the chicken or pork broth used in the sauce. However, this post isn’t about chop suey, but a vegetable that’s similar to the local pechay – the one called bok choy.

These two recipes are our versions and we’re not sure if there are original versions of these somewhere on the web or probably on the dining tables of a Chinese restaurant. Two things are certain – they’re both delicious and easy to prepare.

crispy garlic tofu

[1] Crispy Garlic Tofu


firm tofu

grated garlic – start with 2-3 cloves for a 4×4 2-inch thick square tofu

salt and pepper to taste

rice flour and/or cornstarch – you can use both or either, whichever you prefer

oil for frying

* if you don’t like the sharpness of fresh garlic, you may substitute with garlic powder


Slice the tofu in 1/2-inch thick pieces. In a dry bowl, mix in salt and pepper with rice flour/cornstarch. Add grated fresh garlic. Mix the breading well before dredging the tofu. Make sure the tofu is well coated before frying in hot oil.

Fry til golden brown. Drain excess oil before serving.

You can make calamansi+soy sauce with hot chili slivers as dipping sauce. Or you can make the sweet chili dipping sauce for okoy -> recipe here.

bok choy in oyster sauce

bok choy in oyster sauce with ground pork and garlic

[2] Bok Choy in Oyster Sauce

This vegetable dish is quite simple and easy, yet very flavorful. It is also best for lunch and dinner.


2 bunches of bok choy [slice away the end of the stalks to divide each stalk+leaf]

5+ cloves of garlic, minced

ground pork [optional]

oyster sauce

salt and pepper to taste

sugar [optional]

chopped garlic and onion for sauteing

cooking oil

Here’s a version with carrots and broccoli…


bok choy with carrots, broccoli, and fried garlic in oyster sauce

Here’s another version with lechon kawali. You can pour over the oyster sauce or have it on-the-side.


bok choi with lechon kawali and fried garlic


Blanch the bok choy in simmering water until the leaves and stalks turn dark green. This usually takes just a few minutes, so don’t leave the vegetables on the pot of water. Shock the bok choy by immediately removing it from the simmering water and into a bowl with ice water. Drain and set aside onto a plate.

Saute the chopped garlic and onion until soft. Add ground pork, salt and pepper. Add some water and cook until the meat is tender. Add oyster sauce and a pinch of sugar just to balance the flavor. You may thin the sauce by adding water. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings if needed. Simmer for a minute or two.

On a separate skillet, fry the minced garlic in some oil until golden brown. You want the garlic to be crisp on the outside but not burnt.

Pour the oyster sauce over the bok choy and top with crispy garlic.

Let’s eat!