In the dead of summer in Sichuan province, folks regularly eat incredibly spicy, stomach-burning hot pot with the belief that sweating profusely will cool you off. It makes sense, then, that some of the world's spiciest cuisines (Mexican, Indian, Malaysian, etc.) hail from the hottest climates.
I cook and eat spicy food year-round, even if I have to pour myself an enormous iced drink and blast the fan to enjoy it. My latest dish from two nights ago is a simple but very addictive Sweet Chili-Glazed Tofu. If you're a fan of mapo tofu, like 99.5% of people who have ever eaten Sichuan food, this is another good tofu recipe to try. More tongue-tickling spicy than ma la, with a sweet kick and subtle fruity aroma from cider vinegar, this quickish stir-fry makes an easy one-bowl dinner. With lettuce wraps instead of rice, it also becomes a good backyard cookout appetizer.
Sweet Chili-Glazed Tofu
- 1 lb or 1 block extra firm tofu
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 piece fresh ginger, grated
- Salt to taste
- Chopped peanuts or scallions for garnish
- Rinse and drain the tofu. Slice into 1-inch cubes. Pat with a cloth or paper towels to remove excess water. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, water, chili garlic sauce, vinegar, and red pepper flakes.
- In a small pot or pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar-chili-garlic mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until glaze thickens to syrup-like consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat up a wok or large skillet. Coat the bottom with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the tofu and stir-fry until the outsides start to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with sweet chili glaze. Serve with rice and garnish with chopped peanuts or scallions.