Hunan-Style Braised Fried Tofu

When it comes to tofu, the choices that usually come to mind are soft, firm, or extra firm blocks. Of course, there are many other kinds of tofu, a product of curdled soy milk, just waiting to be eaten. Fermented tofu, fried tofu, frozen tofu, smoked tofu, tofu skin, and flavored tofu all have their own uses, which will be covered here in another time. Fried tofu, though, is what I've been experimenting with. My local markets carry a variety that includes triangles, tofu ends, and tofu puffs (more cubed shaped.)

This quick and fiery Hunan-style dish is made by braising pre-fried tofu puffs (豆泡 dòupào) in stock. Slicing the puffs in half or thirds, depending on the size, allow more sauce to be absorbed. I used 3 dried chillis in my version, but you can always tone down the spiciness.

Hunan-Style Braised Fried Tofu Adapted from Saveur

Serves 4

1 tablespoon peanut oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 1" piece ginger, peeled and minced 2 cups chicken stock 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce 1⁄2 lb. deep-fried tofu puffs, cut into 1⁄2-inch thick slices 2 to 3 dried chillis, stemmed and halved length-wise 7 Chinese chives scallions, green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces 1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp. cold water

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry garlic and ginger in the wok until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, then add soy sauce, tofu, and chillis. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add chives, toss to mix, and cook another 30 seconds. Add cornstarch mixture and stir gently until sauce has thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate or large shallow bowl and serve immediately.