After last week’s Tofu 101 post, I thought I should share with you an easy way to use your new-found bean curd knowledge. I used to order this dish at a rather non-descript Chinese restaurant on Seattle’s highway 99, and they would make it so hot that I’d be practically hallucinating after a few bites. Equal measures of pleasure and agony!
Of course, you don’t have to make it so hot – in fact it can be completely mild. The jalapeno is treated like a vegetable, not just a flavoring, so all you have to do is adjust the ratio of jalapeno to red bell pepper. Do it with 100% bell pepper and you have a dish that is friendly to kids and the heat-averse.
You might consider adding some roasted peanuts for an additional layer of flavor and crunch, or a few pinches of ground Szechwan peppercorn if you enjoy its tongue-numbing tingle.
Like any stir-fry, you’ll want to be sure you have your sauce mixed and all of your tofu and vegetables cut before you start cooking, as once the tofu hits the pan, this dish comes together fast!
In step 5 of the recipe, you’ll see I say to cook the peppers until the colors brighten. For many vegetables, this is an excellent way to tell when they are at the crisp-tender point you are looking for in a stir-fry. It is easy to see if you look for it. (For the scientifically inclined, what is happening is that the air and water trapped between the translucent skin and the brightly colored flesh cooks out, allowing the flesh to shine through.)
Super Spicy Tofu and Peppers (with Mild Variation)
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup tamari (gluten-free if needed) or other soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 pound extra-firm tofu cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 4 jalapeno peppers
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1″ lengths
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Put the cornstarch in a small bowl. Drizzle in the tamari while whisking until all lumps are gone. Whisk in the sugar, garlic and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the sauce.
- Lay the tofu out in a single layer on a clean, absorbent towel and pat dry. (See Tofu 101 for the finer points.)
- Preferably wearing disposable globes, cut the top off of each jalapeno pepper and cut in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds and ribs. Cut each half pepper crosswise. Remove the stem, seeds and rib from the bell pepper and cut into pieces about the same size as the quartered jalapeno.
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or wok over high heat. Pat the tofu dry one more time and fry in a single layer, tossing occasionaly until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the tofu to a plate and leave the skillet on.
- Add the jalapeno, bell pepper and scallion and stir fry over high heat until the colors brighten, about 1 minute. Add the tofu back in, then add the sauce. Quickly stir and fry just long enough to reheat the tofu and cook the cornstarch, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and serve immediately.