I love random bits of trivia. Here's your cool fact for the day: Szechuan (also spelled Sichuan) Peppercorns were banned from import into the United States from 1968 - 2005. The peppercorns were thought to be responsible for a blight on citrus trees, and the ban was only lifted after a change in the processing methods of the peppercorns. While that's interesting in and of itself (who knew??), this is how the westernized, Szechuan Peppercorn-less version of Kung Pao came about. These peppercorns are integral to the flavor of traditional Kung Pao, and here we in America were, for 37 years, not knowing the difference at all! Well. I know *I* feel smarter now.
Unfortunately, I didn't read about this until just now, post-cooking. Aaaand, naturally, I did not procure the peppercorns. But this was good, all the same.
Kung Pao Tofu (adapted from Fearless Homemaker)
-1 package water-packed tofu, firm or extra-firm
-2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or Tamari
-2 tablespoons chinese rice wine
-1 tablespoon peanut oil
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-3 tablespoons dark soy sauce or regular soy sauce
-3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or Tamari
-3 tablespoons chinese rice wine
-2 tablespoons sugar (**I will do 1 tablespoon next time...I'm not too fond of the sweet notes.**)
-1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 dried chilies
-1 tablespoon sesame oil
-2 tablespoons peanut oil
-4 tablespoons oil (divided)
-1 yellow pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
-1 orange pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
-1 head bok choy, sliced
-1 onion, diced
-2 green onions greens
-1/2 cup peanuts
1. Remove tofu from packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Gently squeeze between your hands to try to get out any extra water. Pat again with paper towels.
2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together all marinade ingredients. Cut the tofu into 1/2" cubes and place into the bowl. Mix well and let marinate for a 1/2 hour.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
4. Heat a wok or pan to high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil with the peppers, onion, and bok choy, and stir fry (that is, cook over a very hot pan while moving the food quickly) until they start to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the wok.
5. Add the rest of the oil and the tofu. Stir fry for about 5 minutes, or more if you like it really well done. Do not let the tofu sit, as it will stick to the wok--keep stirring often!
6. Put the veggie mix back into the wok and toss until they are hot. Add the sauce and cook until it thickens, about 5-10 minutes (the longer you go, the more heat gets infused into the sauce from the dried chiles!). Garnish with green onion greens and peanuts. Serve over Jasmine rice.
Verdict: A tasty dish that I would eat again. It was a little greasy and sweet for my tastes, but that's easily remedied by cutting down oil and sugar. The best part was how quickly and easily it all came together. It took just under an hour from start to finish.