Kung "Pow" Tofu (or why 12 chiles is 6 chiles too many)

Last night we made Kung Pao Tofu by veganizing this NPR recipe. Originally I thought it would be a simple tofu replacement for the chicken in the recipe, but of course we changed about 20 other things too. The recipe calls for 10 chiles, and for some reason we used 12 Tien Tsin chiles. It was really spicy. We were actually coughing while cooking because of the spice in the air. Next time we will only use 6 or 8 (or better yet, go with some crushed red peppers so we don’t have to pick out the pepper pods while eating. We also changed some ingredients to more commonly found things that we already had in our kitchen.

Kun Pao Tofu

Modified Version of the NPR recipe:

Kung Pao Tofu

16 oz extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1 inch squares.
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
An equivalent amount (to the garlic) of fresh ginger or jarred grated ginger
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
a generous handful of dried red chiles (at least 10), preferably Sichuanese
2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 sm bell pepper, sliced or diced
optional: green beans

For the marinade:
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

For the sauce:
3 teaspoons sugar
1 1/8 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoon tamari
3 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water

1. Place tofu in a small bowl and mix in the marinade ingredients. Marinate the tofu for a few minutes or so.

2. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Pan fry the tofu in a wok or skillet over high heat with 1 tablespoon peanut oil until lightly browned. Set aside (remove from wok if browned in the wok). We usually put our tofu on paper towels at this point to drain some oil off.

4. Season the wok (wipe with oil), then add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the chiles and stir-fry briefly until they are crisp and the oil is spicy and fragrant. Take care not to burn the chiles (you can remove the wok from the heat if necessary to prevent overheating).

5. Add the onions, carrots, peppers, celery, and green beans. Cook until tender. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry for a few minutes until they are fragrant. Add the cabbage and a few tablespoons of water and cover the wok for a minute or two to steam the cabbage stirring occasionally. When it has softened, remove the lid and add the tofu back to the wok.

6. Give the sauce a stir and add it to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and shiny, add the peanuts, stir them in, and serve over brown rice.

Here are some pictures of the cooking process. This is a picture of the browned tofu waiting to go back into the stir fry:

Kun Pao Tofu

The veggies were stir fried in our cast iron wok:
Kun Pao Tofu

Then we added the cabbage, cooked it some, added the tofu and sauce:

Kun Pao Tofu



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Filed under Dinner Entrees, Vegetables


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