When I was in 6th grade my teacher, Mrs. Dagle, gave the class a get-to-know-you survey. She asked for everyone’s favorite color, book, food, etc. I remember answering my favorite food as “anything except tofu.” I hated the texture of tofu for years-I would often buy it and leave it in the fridge for weeks until I finally cooked it, only to throw half away. Salt and pepper tofu was the first recipe I tried where I really enjoyed the texture and the taste. Something about frying tofu to give it a crunchy texture made it more palatable to me.
I bookmarked this recipe years ago and it’s become a favorite for busy weeknights. I’ve also experimented with cooking the tofu in sauce afterwards, but I prefer to leave it crunchy just the way it is. Feel free to use it in other dishes or as a beginning step to making barbeque tofu.
Most people who know me know I worked in a famous Asian restaurant for well over a year. I was very limited in my meal options there; I pretty much exclusively ate white rice and vegetable spring rolls. Every once in a while I would cook my own meals using the ingredients available to me. One meal I ate regularly was vegetables cooked in their sweet chili sauce (which they called sweetfire.) I was never able to add a vegan protein to it there, but recreating it at home gave me that option.
I used seitan I had dipped in a soy/flour mixture and fried, because the recipe from my work used deep-fried chicken bites. You could easily sub tofu or unbreaded seitan as well. This recipe is extremely quick and easy, especially if you use premade sauce and seitan. Perfect for busy work nights or long days with a teething toddler.
Mapo tofu is still one of our favorite meals here – it’s one of my go to dishes when I’m low on time, because it doesn’t require a huge prep time. I’ve improved on my original recipe a lot, specifically by adding the broad bean paste and szechuan pepper. The szechuan pepper adds an almost – citrus flavor that’s perfect for this spicy dish.
I’ve already told you guys about how much I hated tofu as a child. As much as I don’t enjoy saying it (my husband can attest to this), I was wrong! Tofu is one of the most scrumptious things in the universe, as long as you drain it well and cover it in delicious flavors. I’ll be honest though, I’ve come to even enjoy eating it plain.
You can definitely use extra firm tofu for this, but firm will work just as fine. Don’t get the stuff in the aseptic package, you want the water filled stuff you have to drain. Don’t forget to save that water to whip into meringues! Black vinegar is the only hard to find ingredient in this recipe, but you can substitute a good balsamic vinegar if you don’t have a well stocked asian store nearby. It won’t have the same flavor profile, so definitely search for black vinegar!
One of my favorite meal growing up was sweet and sour meatballs. My mom used a recipe from the original orange Betty Crocker (you know the one, your mom had it too.) I love adapting old recipes, so here’s my version.
I use seitan instead of meatballs, but you could easily substitute tofu. Feel free to add different veggies, but the pineapple is essential.
This could easily be called sichuan eggplant, but I prefer to think of it as mapo eggplant, as that’s what inspired the recipe. I’ve expressed how much I love mapo tofu in my previous post and this dish runs a close second. I came up with this to use up our abundance of eggplant in our garden this year; my desire for spicy foods prevailed over traditional dishes like moussaka.
The eggplant gets a perfect soft and chewy texture when fried, and soaks up the sauce perfectly. I use mushrooms and seitan to mimic the pork in traditional mapo tofu and add some green onions for color. I usually grind my own sichuan peppercorns and make my own chili oil, but you don’t have to go through all that effort if you can buy them both. The fermented black beans and chili bean paste are key in this recipe; you can make it without them, but they add a depth you can’t get without them.
I’ve previously talked about my employment at a popular Asian restaurant that shall remain nameless (hint:you find it in most rest areas across the country and it features a bear in its name.) I spent my first few weeks there solely making fried rice, which is a lot more complicated in large amounts than it seems. I never tried their fried rice, because it contained chicken broth, but I started replicating the recipe at home with great success.
The key to good fried rice is old rice, high heat and a well seasoned wok. It’s going to be really hard to achieve the latter two on a home stovetop, because most people don’t have restaurant style burners. Bearing that in mind, you can still make some pretty tasty rice. I use dark soy sauce because it gives the rice that rich, dark brown color. Feel free to use regular soy sauce, just increase the amount you use.
I love having a big bowl of this in my fridge, I sneak bites of cold rice throughout the day. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods, especially with chili sauce or teriyaki sauce on the side.
All I’ve been wanting today is something spicy. Mouth-numbingly spicy. I want it to burn my lips, my mouth, my stomach. Mapo tofu is the only answer.
This isn’t a perfect recipe. It’s probably not true to the dish (mapo tofu usually had szechuan pepper) nor are the measurements perfect. When I make this I add what feel right. Sometimes I need more sugar. Sometimes I need more black beans. It’s one of those great pms-week dishes because it’s fiery and angry but can be sweet and salty.