To make Fiery Tofu, Mr. Ma fries the green bean, tofu, and bell pepper together until the green beans are cooked through and slightly blistered. Then he drains the oil out of the wok before he stir-fries the aromatics. This dry-frying Chinese cooking method, in which food is fried, drained of oil, and then stir-fried with seasoning, gives the tofu and vegetables the perfect texture to carry the spicy sauce. To make this preparation more home-friendly, we reduced the oil to allow us to skip the oil-draining step. To ensure the green beans are adequately fried, tilt the wok so that the oil pools to one side.
For this dish, look for extra-firm or super-rich tofu, which is denser and drier than firm tofu and hold their shape much better in stir-fries. Tofu labeled “braised” or “baked”, which is essentially super-firm tofu cooked with seasoning can also be used in this recipe. You can use meat in place of the tofu; first stir-fry the meat and then set it aside. Return it to the wok after stir-frying the garlic and ginger. For a vegetarian version of fiery tofu, omit the oyster sauce.
Yield: Serves 2 as part of a larger meal
1 ½ tablespoons sambal oelek (see page 238)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup green beans, ends trimmed
8 to 10 ounces super-firm tofu, sliced into bite-sized strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
Handful of Thai basil leaves
In a bowl, whisk together the sambal, soy sauces, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the green beans and cook, tilting the wok so the oil coats the beans, until the beans begin to blister, about 1 minute. Add the tofu and bell pepper and fry until the beans begin to wrinkle, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu and the vegetables to a plate, leaving the oil in the wok.
Add the garlic and ginger to the wok and stir-fry briefly, about 20 seconds. Return the tofu and vegetables to the wok and pour in the sambal mixture. Cook for a minute or so until the tofu is nicely coated in the sauce. Stir in the basil and serve immediately.