This vegan kung pao tofu is made with caramelized baked tofu bits in a spicy sauce with peanuts and stir-fried veggies. Later, takeout!
There was a time when I ate at Chinese vegetarian restaurants constantly. I’ve gone on a bit about this before. I loved those places. Most of them have a full menu that looks like a normal Chinese restaurant menu, but everything’s vegetarian. Towards the end of my residency in Philly, I started having lunch at this place, which was close to my office and a little different. They called the dishes what they actually were, which was nice, but actually made it a little tough to order. I mean, maybe I haven’t had meat in a while, but I at least have a pretty good idea of what General Tso’s chicken is. Offer me “soy bean protein in garlic sauce,” and I’m suddenly confused. I eventually discovered that, despite having names that were a little foreign to me, everything on the menu was delicious. I started throwing caution to the wind and ordering anything and everything, sometimes totally at random.
The kung pao dish on the menu was called kung pao dried tofu, which didn’t really sound appetizing to me. Did they put it in a dehydrator? And why dry your tofu? It’s so good when it’s all moist and squishy. I ordered anyway, and it turned out their dried tofu was analogous to my baked tofu. Ah. Baked tofu is delicious, and perfect with the finely diced and stir-fried veggies and crispy peanuts you find in any kung pao dish.
I went and tried to replicate that kung pao tofu I loved so much. Can’t say how authentic this is, or if I did things similarly to my favorite Chinese veggie place, but it tasted pretty darn good, and that’s enough for me.
Kung Pao Tofu
For the Baked Tofu
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry (sub water or broth for a non-alcoholic version)
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained, pressed at least 20 minutes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
For the Sauce
For the Stir-Fry
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
- 3 scallions chopped, white and green parts separated
- 5-10 dried chile peppers, halved
- 2 bell peppers, any color, diced
- 2 cups baby corn, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- Cooked Rice
Make the Baked Tofu
- Stir wine, soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup, sesame oil and ginger together in a shallow dish. Add tofu and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure even coating.
- Preheat oven to 400°, line a baking sheet with parchment. Arrange tofu cubes in an even layer on baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until lightly browned.
Make the Sauce
- Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.
Make the Stir-Fry
- Coat the bottom of a large wok or skillet with oil and place over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, white parts of scallions and dried chili peppers. Stir fry until chili peppers darken a bit, about 2 minutes.
- Add bell peppers and baby corn. Stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Add sauce and tofu. Stir-fry just until all ingredients are hot and coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Add peanuts and green parts of scallions. Flip a few times to incorporate. Remove from heat.
- Divide onto plates and serve with rice.
This is meant to be spicy! If you aren't into that, skip the dried chiles and the Asian chili paste. If you aren't sure of just how into that you are, just skip the chiles and add the chili paste at the end, a bit at a time.
Nutrition information does not include rice.