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Celery tofu stirfry with water chestnuts

This week has been a little insane since I started a new rotation on Monday at the children’s hospital in infectious diseases. First of all, I started the week with insomnia, for the second time in my life. Now let me preface this by saying that I am the deepest sleeper you have probably encountered. For the record, I slept through three fire alarms in college dorms. Yes…the next morning, everyone was asking me where I was last night. And in bed I was, soundly dreaming away in fairyland.

So when I experienced insomnia for the first time, I was a little shaken. Granted it was the night before my medicine board exam, the most important test I had ever taken in life, one that would determine what specialty I go into, what caliber of residency program I can apply for. I had enough excuses to be a hot mess the night before, but as I laid in bed for 7 hours straight tossing and turning, counting sheep, counting in Chinese, trying every method I knew to fall asleep but couldn’t, it was the most tormenting 7 hours of my life. I began to understand a bit about what some of my patients go through with insomnia. The luckiest thing is, I happened to still do alright on my board despite not sleeping a wink.

So when I couldn’t fall asleep again last Sunday night, I felt a deep fear brewing inside about what was to come in that 7 hours of darkness. I guess I was subconsciously nervous about starting a difficult and hectic rotation after months of non-clinical work…or that I’m getting old. Either way, it was eye opening to see the idols in my life that I subconsciously prioritized, like academic success and approval from others. Into dawn, the only thought I carried with me was- I must purchase melatonin the next chance I go to the grocery.

Anyway, back to celery. I was never a fan of celery. It seemed that no matter how I ate it, dipped in ranch, dipper in peanut butter (urrgh), dipped in hummus, it was simply seeking another exterior to cover up its naturally bitter and acidic taste. But no more! My ingenious mother taught me the perfect combination of stirfrying celery and dry tofu. Dry tofu does not look like regular tofu by the way. It’s processed differently and is drier and fuller than regular tofu. You can find it packaged in a block in any Asian grocery. Below is how it looks like when cut.

Chinese dry tofu


Somehow the soy-ness of the dry tofu balances out the tart celery, and I added a spoonful of Shacha sauce when stirfrying to further take away the acidity of the celery. More on cooking with Shacha sauce here. I also added a few water chestnuts into the mix for fun. Water chestnuts is a totally different animal from chestnuts. It’s an Asian vegetable that resembles a chestnut in exterior. Once you peel the skin off, the meat is white, crunchy and slightly sweet, reminds me of sugarcane. It can be eaten raw and mixed into a salad or dessert, or you can stir fry it with meats, snow peas, carrots…the options are endless.

water chestnut

Celery stirfry with dry tofu (2)

Celery Tofu Stirfry with Water Chestnuts

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • celery, 4 stalks, chopped
  • dry tofu, 4 small blocks, sliced
  • 5 water chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped
  • garlic, minced
  • 1 large spoon of Shacha sauce

With oil in the pan, add minced garlic and stir fry until fragrant.

Add celery and stir fry for 3 minutes. Then add dry tofu pieces and stir fry for another 3 minutes. Cover for 3 minutes, until celery has lost its tartness. Add water chestnuts and Shacha sauce and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.


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