I had a small piece of tuna belly, a cake of firm tofu, and some vegetables. I also had two choices. Stir fry everything without adding any sauce and, after they have been transferred on a serving platter, pour over them a sauce similar to tempura sauce. Or, I could stir-fry them the usual way, adding an oyster-based sauce thickened with a little tapioca starch. I ended up doing neither. See, I was dying to open the bottle of cashew wine vinegar from the Christmas gift bag of Mama Sita products. That was what brought on the idea of pouring tempura sauce over the fish and veggies. But my kids like saucy stir-fries. The easiest choice was to make some kind of sweet-and-sour stir fry. I could use the vinegar and the kids could have all the sauce they wanted. But, alas, we ran out of sugar. So, should the lack of sugar prevent me from cooking a sweet and sour dish? Of course not! Why should it be when there’s a bottle of honey in the pantry?
I know it sounds weird. But I’m not a very precise person in the sense that I don’t do anything by the letter and by the number. I improvise lots of times. Like… oh, okay, it’s not the first time we ran out of sugar in the house. And I’m a huge coffee drinker. But I never take my coffee black. I want my cream and sugar. Those times when I would crave a hot coffee only to discover there was no sugar well, I poured pancake syrup into my coffee. Was it terrible? No. It tasted different but it was okay.
So, last night, I wanted to make a sweet and sour dish because I wanted to use cashew wine vinegar. And I just knew that the honey would do just fine. A little note about the cashew wine vinegar. It smells strongly of lambanog. It isn’t mellow like French and Italian wine vinegars. My kids didn’t notice because the aroma of ginger overpowered the smell of alcohol. The flavor and body are wonderful but the smell is a little strong.
Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan until it starts to smoke. Fry the tofu until golden. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Set aside. Pour off half of the cooking oil. Reheat the remainder. Dredge the tuna in flour, shake off the excess, and pan-fry in batches until a crisp crust forms. Drain on paper towels and keep warm. Make the sauce by stirring together the vegetable broth, vinegar, honey, and a little salt. Use more or less of each ingredient to suit your taste. Add the tapioca starch and stir until completely dissolved. Add the quail eggs, fried tofu, and tuna to the pan. Pour in the sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened. Turn off the heat, drizzle some sesame seed oil over the cooked dish, toss a few times, and serve.