Asparagus and Tofu with Guilin Chili Sauce

Asparagus and Tofu with Guilin Chili Sauce

I love to stir-fry asparagus. I most often serve it in a Chinese fermented black bean sauce. The slightly funky saltiness of the preserved beans seems to be a perfect complement to the sweet-bitter crispness of the vegetable.

I recently picked up my first jar of Guilin Chili Sauce, and as soon as I tasted it, I knew it would also pair well with asparagus. It too contains fermented soybeans, but combined with a very hot, fruity chili pepper. I'm pretty sure this stuff has earned a regular spot in my refrigerator.

I guess my wife might say that isn't a very high bar! I've got the whole door full of bottles of condiments and sauce components. I can't tell you how many delicious things I've found by going out on a limb to buy sauces at Asian markets without any real idea of what they were beyond that the ingredients were vegetarian. Most of these things are only a few bucks, so there isn't much risk.

So reading up on Wikipedia, Guilin is a city in the south of China, and this chili sauce is famous stuff. It is considered one of the city's three treasures, along with a rice liquor and pickled tofu. Wow, a city famous for three vegetarian specialties! I like it. Anyone from Guilin want to tell us more about it? For example Is the sauce typically prepared at home or bought at a store?

The brand I found is Lee Kum Kee, which is available at Uwajimaya for those of you in the Seattle area, or you can find it on Amazon. For a rough approximation, you could substitute half regular black-bean paste and half red chili paste (like a sambal oelek or sriracha) and add some garlic and a bit of sugar.

Asparagus and Tofu with Guilin Chili Sauce
Serves 4 as a main course with rice
Vegetarian and vegan; the sauce is not gluten free

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, patted dry and cut into medium dice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 large bunch asparagus, stems trimmed, cut into 1" segments
  • 1 red bell pepper, medium dice
  • 2 tablespoons Guilin Chili Sauce (if you like it 3-stars hot, more if you are a 5-star person), mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  1. Heat a wok or your largest skillet over a very high flame. Add the oil and immediately toss in the tofu, watching out for splatters. Fry, tossing occasionally until well browned on all sides. Season with salt and remove to paper towels, leaving as much oil behind as possible.
  2. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 15 seconds.
  3. Add the asparagus and stir-fry for 1 minute (or more if thick).
  4. Add the red pepper and stir-fry for about 1 more minute, until both vegetables are nearly tender.
  5. Add the sauce, return the tofu, and stir-fry for 30 more seconds to combine.
  6. Serve immediately over rice, garnished with the toasted sesame seeds.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, March 26th, 2009 in Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

10 Responses to “Asparagus and Tofu with Guilin Chili Sauce”

  1. Reply
    March 26, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    Sounds like one more thing I need in my fridge!

  2. Reply
    March 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    oh my, this looks fabulous! i love asparagus! i’ll have to look for guilin sauce at the asian store next time – it sounds great! i use a lot of chili sauce, i’m a 5-star kinda gal 🙂

  3. Reply
    March 26, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    I’ll have to look out for that sauce in my local Asian market. I have seen Lee Kum Kee brand stuff here in Ireland, so I might just be able to pick this up…

  4. Reply
    March 26, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    That salad says…spring is here! That looks so colorful 🙂

  5. Reply
    March 28, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    I use chili paste with fermented soy bean in my ma po tofu. It’s from Taiwan…I always prefer to buy Taiwanese over mainland products when possible.

    And I generally add an equivalent amount of chili garlic (or plain chili) paste, as I like my spice level at 11 (on a scale of 1-10!).

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 1, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    That’s an interesting point. What Taiwanese brands have you found to be good
    and where do I get them in Seatown? The MPT sounds yum.

  7. Reply
    April 1, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    The paste I buy doesn’t seem to have an English name, but there’s a little red camel on the label. When I buy boxed century eggs, I check the label for the source. It’s usually easy to tell, as the ones from mainland China are cheaper.

    Here in Seattle, I sometimes buy these (relatively) non-perishables at Viet Wah. If the owner’s around, he can be quite helpful. HT Oaktree Plaza is also good, and then there’s Uwajimaya. Further out, Central Market, H Mart, and Ranch 99 are also options.

  8. Reply
    August 16, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    This sauce is great. I cooked mine with Cabbage, Bean sprouts, Spring Onion and Prawns.

    I also tried making a similar sauce using basic components:
    1 tbsp each of Fu Chi Chili Bean Sauce, Sambal Olek, light soy sauce, sesame oil and a clove of minced garlic. It wasn’t quite the same – being a mish-mash of different Asian countries – but was still pretty tasty.

  9. Reply
    September 24, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    I live in the Guilin area and suggest you try this with Fuzhou (doufu bamboo) rather than soft Doufu. Stir fried Fuzhu is a common dish in these parts and has a lot more texture. If you cannot find it freeze your regular Doufu for a week in the freezer, defrost and drain by squeezing it like a sponge using your hands or a spatula. This will give the Doufu a lot more texture.

    • Reply
      September 24, 2012 at 5:48 am #

      Thanks for the tip! I love when folks write in with local knowledge like that.

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