Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kung Pao - wow!

Last night I thanked Jon. Now for those of you not married yet, let me give you this advice - don't do this too often. You don't want to spoil your husband, nor do you want him to expect your thanks. Dole out your thanks in small doses, spaced out greatly. That way he will hang on your every whim, dying to gain your approval.

This works for dogs and small children too.

But I digress, I really am fortunate that Jon is such an openminded eater. I love tofu, and like to make it a regular part of my diet. Jon is more than willing to comply. Of course, I'm wise enough to space out tofu meals - like thanks- so that he never gets overwhelmed. Last night I made kung pao tofu. Well, almost kung pao tofu.

See I found this great website - which has a ton of great tofu recipes. Not only do the recipes look great, but they are accompanied with a video of a chef making it! So for anyone afraid to attempt duplication - fear not! I thought kung pao tofu would be a great one to use because kung pao anything is nice and spicy and full of flavor. I looked at the ingredients and added what I didn't have to my shopping list. And this is where I ran into two problems.
1) I thought I had hoisin sauce. I mean who doesn't have hoisin sauce? It's just one of those condiments I assumed was in my cabinet. I assumed wrong. When I went to make it last night I discovered its the one condiment I don't keep on hand. Think fast, what can you substitute? Well nothing really has that great garlicy flavor of hoisin, but oyster sauce has a similar oyster sauce it was (and some garlic to compensate). This left the dish a little salty (which I love) so if you make the same mistake I did and don't like salty, add a little more sugar.

2) Spicy bean paste? Couldn't find it anywhere. Okay, to be fair, I didn't go to the Asian market which would surely have had it, because its a good 15 minute drive away and I didn't feel like making the trek. And when I drove past it last Sunday I forgot I needed the spicy bean paste. So I left it out. I don't think flavor wise it would change much, but it definitely would add hotness so I doubled the chili and garlic sauce instead. The kung pao was still more sweet than spicy though, so my substitutions definitely made this less kung pao-y and more stir fry-y. But at least it was super duper tasty!!!!

Kung Pao Tofu (from - my changes in italics)

  • 1 block tofu, firm
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or olive oil
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce (I used oyster sauce and minced garlic instead)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (chili and garlic sauce) (2 Tbsp)
  • 1 tablespoon Spicy Bean Paste (Korean hot sauce) (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, small diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, small diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, small diced (I forgot I needed these and used them earlier this week for snack......)
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, small diced
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts or peanuts

Place the water packed tofu in the freezer overnight. Using tofu that has been frozen first will give this dish a meatier feel. Freezing makes the texture of tofu chewier, which resembles chicken. Thaw the tofu by leaving it out all day or in the microwave for a few minutes. Once thawed, squeeze the tofu between your hands over a bowl to catch all the water that will come out. It will feel like squeezing a sponge dry. The more water you get out, the more the tofu will absorb the flavors of the sauce. Slice the tofu in to bite-sized cubes and fry in the peanut oil until golden brown. Set aside. (Honestly - I hate this direction because its labor intensive and I don't think it works so well - leaving you with tofu crumbs. You really can't ring out tofu like a sponge. Instead I slice the tofu in half, place it between paper towels on a plate and place another plate on top of it for 30 min. to squeeze out the excess water)

Next, make the Kung Pao sauce. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well, then set aside. Adjust the sauce to your taste by adding more hot sauce if you want the sauce to be hotter, and less sugar to take away some sweetness.

Cut all the vegetables into same size pieces so that they will cook evenly. You can use all your favorite vegetables, these are just a suggestion. In a sauté pan heat the peanut oil and sauté the vegetables. Just be sure to add the thicker ones, like carrots, first and let cook for two minutes. Then the onion and bell peppers for another two minutes. Add delicate vegetables like zucchini last and only cook briefly or they will get mushy and lose vitamins. Add the golden tofu cubes and mix gently. Now add the sauce, a little at a time, until you get the desired coating. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes to reduce the sauce and thicken it. For the final touch, sprinkle with macadamia nuts for a truly local flair, or peanuts. Serve over jasmine rice and enjoy!


  1. 2 comments:

    1. your tip for getting rid of the extra water sounds a lot easier and not as messy.

    2. that is the most perfect ball of rice i've ever seen! how did you do that!?!

  2. Amber - I put the rice in a coffee mug, pack it down and then turn the mug over onto the plate - voila, mound o'rice.

  3. I'm mot a fam of kumg pao but glad that Jom liked it! I always thought he was a pretty picky eater though.