This recipe is a Dan special. Dan is my husband, for those of you new to this corner of the internet. He grew up eating kung pao chicken at Big Bowl in the States and after his friend started working there and making it, he taught Dan the recipe.
I’ve wanted to share it here for a long time and now that we’ve been reunited, after four months of living apart, this seemed like a really fitting time.
Dan cooks a lot of the food in our house – I think he’s quite brilliant in the kitchen: unafraid, experimental, bold, with a real sense of how to keep things simple but make flavours work. I am quite in awe of his cooking skills. Living alone, one of the things I’ve loved most is getting to know our new kitchen and starting to cook again after two months of living out of a suitcase, but I’ve desperately missed evenings at home with Dan trying a new recipe or making one of our classics.
Quick, fiery and deeply satisfying to eat, kung pao tofu (or kung pao tizzy, as it’s known around here) is a huge favourite of ours, especially on a weeknight when we crave something salty-sweet, hot and filling. It’s one of the dishes that I’ve always let Dan just cook solo since it comes together in the wok in a flash and there’s not much room or time for an extra body to get in the way. Being apart for four months changed that.
I got a mad craving for kung pao a month or two ago while we were still an ocean apart and had Dan text me the recipe immediately. My first attempt didn’t taste as good as I remembered his tasting, but since he’s joined me in London we’ve made it together and now I’m pretty sure I’ve got it down. Or maybe it just tastes better when he’s with me? Either way, consider this a celebratory kung pao tizzy/my husband is finally here blog post. Feels good to be back.
Kung Pao Tofu
Make sure you have black bean paste and hoisin sauce for this dish. You can make a delicious stir fry without those two ingredients, but it won’t be kung pao. Also, don’t be shy when frying the tofu. You are essentially deep frying, not sautéing it, and you need a lot of hot oil for this job. The result is lovely crispy tofu. Finally, this dish comes together quickly so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and laid out ready to go before you begin cooking.
- 400g (14oz) package tofu, drained and pressed to remove as much moisture as possible
- 175 – 200ml (3/4 – 1 cup) organic rapeseed oil (or other neutral oil that takes high heat well)
- 1 small onion, chopped to a large dice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 or 2 dried arbol chilli peppers, minced
- 1.5 tbsp black bean paste
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
- 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- small handful peanuts, roughly chopped
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced, to serve
- Cooked rice (we use jasmine or basmati), to serve
- Cut the tofu into into half-inch cubes and set aside.
- Heat a wok over high heat for a minute. Once very hot, add the oil and let it heat up. It should be sizzling hot. Add half the tofu and fry until golden brown and crispy, turning over to ensure all sides are equally crisp and coloured. Remove from the wok with a spider strainer or slotted spatula and put aside on a plate covered with paper kitchen towels to soak up some of the oil. Repeat with the rest of the tofu.
- Carefully remove most of the hot oil from the wok, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fresh ginger, garlic, and dried chilli pepper to the wok and cook for a further minute, keeping everything moving and coated in oil. Add the fried tofu and peanuts to the wok and toss to coat with the other ingredients.
- Add the black bean paste, hoisin sauce, tamari, and rice vinegar to the wok, stirring and tossing the other ingredients in it. Finally, add the sesame oil, give everything a final stir and remove from the heat.
- Add rice to a bowl and top with kung pao. Scatter green onions on top and serve, piping hot. Serves two with some leftovers (if you don’t go back for more, which you will).