Kung Pao Style Tofu
To be honest I haven’t really had too many “Kung Pao” experiences in my life, it was never something I ordered from Chinese take-out. I think the first time I tried a Kung Pao sauce was from a vegan Chinese restaurant on Kearny street in San Francisco called Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant. If any of you ever find yourself in San Francisco, specifically near Chinatown/the Financial District, I highly suggest this place. They had Kung Pao soy chicken and I instantly loved the spicy sauce, the bell peppers, and the peanuts and knew I had to recreate it.
Living in New York City the first time I made this recipe, specifically Korea town, I thought it should be relatively easy to find the whole dried chilies that you generally see in in Kung Pao. I figured I would try H-mart because they have everything at H-mart, but sadly all I could find there was chili oil with minced dried chilies in it. I ended up settling on that because there was NO way I was venturing down to Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon in 90 degree weather… If you can find the whole dried chilies feel free to use that instead since that was is typically used in a Kung Pao sauce. I generally make this recipe with baked tofu as the main ingredient, which works really well, but next time I make this I am going to try using cauliflower as the base instead for a soy alternative.
For the sauce:
4 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 tsp. coconut or brown sugar
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch
For the stir fry:
¾ block of extra firm tofu, pressed and drained
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 tsp. chili oil
1 large green bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp. fresh grated ginger
2 green onions, white parts only (reserve the green part for garnish), chopped
⅓ cup blanched raw peanuts
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut tofu into bite sized cubes and spread evenly on a parchment paper lined or lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, moving the tofu pieces around occasionally. Set aside.
Meanwhile whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
Place carrot pieces in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3-4 minutes or until tender and set aside. In a large pan over medium heat add in the chili oil. Add in green bell pepper and sauté until tender. Add in the garlic, ginger, and green onion and stir to combine. Add in the carrots, peanuts, and tofu and mix to combine.
Pour the sauce into the pan and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens. This will happen pretty quickly.
Top with sesame seeds, the rest of the green onion