Tuesday, January 15, 2008


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                 Hunan spicy home-style bean curd (tofu)

Here's a spicy tofu dish that is simple and quick to make, and you can make it as spicy as you like-- this dish is from the Hunan province of China, where they like it hot!

Comments on Hunan cuisine from The China Daily:

"Hunan Cuisine Also known as Xiang Cai, Hunan cuisine has already developed into a famous culinary school in China. Hunan dishes consist of local dishes from the Xiangjiang River area, Dongting Lake area and Western Hunan mountain area. Hunan's culinary specialties are akin to those of the chili-rich Sichuan dishes. It is also characterized by thick and pungent flavor. Chili, pepper and shallot are usually necessaries in this division. However, Chili, peppers, garlic (suan) and an unusual sauce, called "strange-flavor" sauce (guai wei jiang) on some menus, enliven many dishes, with a somewhat drier intensity than that of their Sichuan counterparts. Sweetness, too, is a Hunan culinary passion, and honey sauces are favored in desserts such as water chestnut or cassia flower cakes...

Hunan food is characterized by its hot and sour flavor, fresh aroma, greasiness, deep color, and the prominence of the main flavor in the dishes. Hunan food is hot because the climate is very humid, which makes it difficult for human body to eliminate moisture. The local people eat hot peppers to help remove dampness and cold. The main cooking methods for Hunan dishes are braising, double-boiling, steaming and stewing... Rice is the staple in Hunan, but northern-style side dishes and fillers are also popular: bean curd "bread" rolls or dumplings and savory buns. They are further signs that Hunan is one of China's culinary heartland, incorporating many flavors and regional influences."  There is a longer piece here.

I adapted this dish to be vegan, and also pan-fried the tofu in a nonstick pan with just a little oil, instead of deep-frying it. I left out some of the extra oil at the end of the recipe, too, and used a little more soy sauce. We really enjoyed this!

Printable Recipe

Adapted from a recipe in the "Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province"  by Fuchsia Dunlop.
Serves 4  
(The original recipe said it served 2, but, even with our healthy appetites, it served 4 nicely with rice!)

OPTIONAL: a handful of thinly sliced seitan or any meat sub
1 tsp dry sherry (this is instead of Chinese rice wine)
1 1/4 lbs. firm regular tofu, drained
2 Tbs oil
2 fresh red chili peppers, cored and seeded and cut in thin diagonal slices
       OR 1-2 Tbs. Chinese chili sauce/paste plus 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
1 Tbs finely chopped garlic
3 Tbs Chinese fermented black beans, rinsed (or Chinese black bean sauce)
1 cup chicken-style vegetarian broth
1 tsp dark soy sauce, or to taste
3/4 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs cold water
1/2 tsp dark sesame oil 
3 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

In a bowl, combine the seitan and wine. Mix well and set aside. If you aren't using the seitan, add the wine to the stir-fry later, along with the soy sauce.

Cut the tofu into oblong slices, about 1/2-inch thick. Pat dry. In a large nonstick skillet or stirfry pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the tofu and fry until the slices are just tinged with gold on both sides. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Add the garlic and chilies to the hot pan and let them sizzle for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the seitan, if using and stir-fry it briefly. Add the black beans, still stirring constantly. Pour in the broth and soy sauce. Add the fried tofu and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

Stir in the cornstarch mixture and sesame oil and toss with the ingredients briefly, just until the sauce thickens. Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce, if you like. Sprinkle with the green onions and serve with rice.

Nutrition (per serving): 202.3 calories; 59% calories from fat; 14.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 630.0mg sodium; 421.7mg potassium; 9.3g carbohydrates; 2.3g fiber; 2.5g sugar; 6.9g net carbs; 12.9g protein.



spiceislandvegan said...

Oooo, Bryanna, I LOVE this kind of tofu dish. I make it all the time. The fermented black beans adds 'umami' to this dish. This is YUMMY! The garlic, the chili sauce, and the black beans make the sauce taste so good. I brought it to a potluck to work and people just LOVE it.

Recently, I bought Infra red toaster oven and have been roasting the tofu in this small oven with minimal oil. It works very good.

Rage And Love said...

Just found your blog (!)

THe tofu recipe looks stellar! I"m gonna go try it now!

Anonymous said...


This looks delicious -- and familiar! My local library has both Fuschia Dunlop's regional Hunan cookbook that you adapted this from, along with her Szechwan one (Land of Plenty), and I am having great fun reading through the recipes and lore and trying to veganize and reduce the fat in the recipes. This one was one of the first I veganized/adapted, though I left out any kind of meat sub.

I want to give credit where credit is due: I learned to cook vegan Chinese food from your Chinese book, and so I finally feel comfortable with non-vegetarian cookbooks now that I have learned so many of your techniques.

Thanks, as always, for the inspiration :)