Kong Xin Cai with Baked Tofu and Steamed Rice - VeganMofo day 2’s prompt:

Recreate a meal from your childhood.

All the elements in today’s dish are all items that make me nostalgic and remind me of being a little kid again.  I don’t really remember eating all of these items together, but I did have each of these foods throughout my childhood and they go together nicely!

My parents are originally from Taiwan so I grew up eating both a mix of tacos, pizza, burgers, and salads, as well as the foods they grew up with– seaweed, Chinese fruits and vegetables, preserved plums and pickled cucumbers, all kinds of buns and pastries filled with red bean paste, rice porridge, thin and thick noodles–all kinds of good stuff!  Here is a run down of all the items that are used in this meal and what they mean to me…

Nostalgic Rice Domes - Rice: This is one of the first foods that came to mind when I thought of my childhood.  I  remember watching my mom make the rice, measure the amount of water with her hand, and how I really liked pushing the tab down to get the rice cooker started (I think there’s even a picture of me when I was a kid sitting next to the rice cooker lol).  But my most favorite thing about the rice wasn’t the taste or texture or anything like that, but it was that my mom would pack it into a bowl, flip it over, and out came a smooth dome of rice!  That was my favorite and was just so much more fun to eat than rice scooped into a bowl the regular ol’ way :).

Kong Xin Tsai - The Greens, Kong Xin Tsai: This veggie is called “kong xin tsai” in Mandarin and it translates into “hollow heart vegetable” because the stems are hollow.  Of course I loved this as a kid because I’d try to use it as a straw, blow air through it at my brother, and spend a lot of time playing with it before I ate it.  These greens have pleasantly crunchy stems, tender leaves, and a mild flavor.  The plant is also pretty large and in charge!  I had to cut each piece in half to wash and cut them because my cutting board wasn’t big enough.  I actually really liked how it looked raw, I think it’d make a really nice bouquet or house plant!

Kong Xin Cai - Baked Tofu: I remember seeing this at Trader Joe’s and it really made me think about how popular tofu had become!  Previously, I had only seen it at Asian markets and Taiwan eateries.  This is the baked tofu I remember, dark solid blocks that “look like brownies” according to my boyfriend.  My mom would cut the blocks into super thin slices and drizzle with a bit of sesame oil.  Then we would dip it into soy sauce and / or sweet and spicy chile sauce.  It was and still is one of my favorite things to eat!

Baked tofu block or brownie? Baked tofu block or brownie?

This meal is very humble and simple, but I really like it as a quick lunch or a light dinner.  (If you are REALLY in a rush, I suggest picking up already cooked rice–I found some at 99 Ranch, this location had a hot food area–and you are so good to go.)  You can add vegan orange chicken or a couple more side dishes to this if you are looking for a bigger spread.

Here’s the recipe for the Kong Xin Tsai, I hope you enjoy it!

Tools you will need: a 10-12″ frying pan or wok

Note about the recipe: the total time for this recipe is listed as 25 minutes–that’s because I like to wash my veggies REAL good and it usually takes me longer than most people.  The cook time is less than 10 minutes so if you are faster at prepping, this recipe should take a lot less time for you :).

Sauteed Chinese Greens - "Kong Xin Tsai"

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serving Size: 2-3

Sauteed Chinese Greens -


  • 3 handfuls / bunches of kong xin cai
  • 2-3 gloves of garlic, minced (use more if you like!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1 tsp of low sodium soy sauce


  1. Prep the kong xin tsai. Make sure to wash and rinse thoroughly. Cut the greens roughly in half so the are easier to handle. Separate the leaves from the stem and set aside in a separate bowl. Cut the stems into pieces about 2" long on the diagonal. Take the leaves and roughly cut them in half. Keep the stems and leaves separated.
  2. In a heated wok or frying pan, add the oil.
  3. Once the oil is heated, add the minced garlic. Cook until they begin to turn golden brown on the edges. Make sure to stir the garlic around so they don't burn.
  4. Add the stems only to the pan and stir to mix with the garlic. Add 2 tsp of water and stir again. Cover for about 1-2 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook for another minute until stems are tender.
  5. Add the leaves to the pan. Cook until the leaves are wilted. Remove the pan from heat.
  6. Lightly drizzle soy sauce over the greens, stir to mix, and serve.

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