Kung Pao Tofu Puffs
Photo by Clare Barboza

Recipe of the Day: Kung Pao Tofu Puffs

Say goodbye to takeout
Kung Pao Tofu Puffs
Photo by Clare Barboza

It’s easy to rely on takeout food when you’re too tired to cook or simply don’t have enough time. But we have a great recipe that the whole family can enjoy that will cut out those expensive delivery fees. In the mood for Chinese? This kung pao tofu puffs recipe is vegetarian-friendly and might be even better than its chicken counterpart.

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Tofu puffs, unlike regular water-packed tofu, are crispy and hollow on the inside. That is because they are fried in oil until they are golden and puffy. This makes them perfect for mimicking the crunchiness of kung pao chicken. Tofu puffs are also great for dipping into other sauces or condiments.

If you’re planning on making these kung pao tofu puffs, you can try meal prepping them at the beginning of the week and storing them for up to three days in your fridge until you’re ready to serve. Enjoy them on a bed of white rice or noodles, or toss them in a stir-fry with leftover vegetables.

This dish can also work with other meat alternatives. Just swap the tofu puffs for broiled or pan-fried tempeh. Or try it with cauliflower. Whichever way you decide to eat this protein-packed meal, this recipe is only one of the many vegetarian and vegan-friendly dinner ideas for when you don’t know what to cook.

Kung Pao Tofu Puffs

Recipe (c)2021 by Hsiao-Ching Chou. Excerpted from Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by permission of Sasquatch Books. 

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon bean sauce

  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

  • 2 teaspoons chili sauce

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

For the tofu mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 cup diced sweet bell peppers (about 1-inch dice)

  • 2 stalks green onions, finely chopped

  • 1 package tofu puffs (about 6 ounces) or 1 batch Tofu Puffs (recipe follows)

  • 1/4 cup Huang Fei Hong Hot Chilli Pepper Peanuts or roasted unsalted peanuts

For the tofu puffs:

  • 1 quart vegetable oil

  • 1 (16-ounce) package soft tofu (not silken)

Directions

For the sauce:

Step 1: To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons bean sauce, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons chili sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns. Set aside.

For the tofu mixture:

Step 1: To make the tofu mixture, preheat a wok over high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add 1 tablespoon vegetab;e oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add 1 cup diced sweet bell peppers, and stir for about 1 minute. Add 2 stalks of chopped green onion, 6 ounces tofu puffs, and 1/4 cup peanuts, and stir for a few seconds to combine. Add the sauce, and stir-fry thoroughly to distribute. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes to let the sauce meld with the tofu puffs. Serve with rice.

For the tofu puffs:

Step 1: In a 2-quart pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 quart oil to 375F.

Step 2: Meanwhile, prepare 1 package of soft tofu. Line a plate or small tray with a double layer of paper towels. Remove the tofu from the package, draining the liquid into the sink. Place the tofu on the paper towels. Using another sheet of paper towel, gently dab the surface of the tofu to absorb some of the residual liquid. Place the tofu on a cutting board, with the long edge facing you

Step 3: Cut the tofu in half crosswise as if you were creating a layer cake. Next, imagine there’s an outline of an ice cube tray on the tofu and make one cut down the center of the tofu lengthwise. Then, make four cuts crosswise. You will end up with 16 pieces of tofu.

Step 4: Using a candy thermometer, check the temperature of the oil. When it has reached 375F, you are ready to fry. Line a plate with paper towels. Using a heatproof slotted spoon or skimmer, gently place as many pieces of tofu as will fit in your pot without crowding. The tofu pieces will need room to float. Let fry until golden brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Repeat the process with the remaining tofu cubes. Use right away, or let cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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