Bowlful of Sweet & Sour & Hot Tofu
Updated: Jul 8, 2022
As we explore the cuisine of Sichuan, we just can't ignore tofu. And yes, the world seems to be divided in two. Those who love tofu and those who stay as far away from it as possible. Tofu can seem intimidating if you’ve never used it before, or perhaps you tried it and just couldn’t find the flavor.
If that’s the case for you, we think this lovely warm comforting bowl might be your gateway into the world of tofu. It will never be called flavorless with the sweet and salty of the Sweet Aromatic Soy Sauce, the tanginess of the vinegar, the savorness of the toasted sesame oil, the kick of the chili oil, and the unique flavor of the Sichuan Peppercorns. The texture of silken tofu is lovely. It reminds us of a bowl of custard freshly created and still warm. Slurping on this dish is much like eating a bowl of warm savory custard. The green onions and chopped peanuts contrast to that creamy texture with a bit of crunchiness.
If you are aiming for less meat in your life or just looking for a new weekday dinner, this easy quick dish deserves a try! It’s one of those dishes that are easily customizable by everyone at the table making those eating happy, and with a total prep time of 10 minutes making the cook happy as well. You’ll be glad to add it to your rotation.
If you missed our Sweet Aromatic Soy Sauce and Chili Oil recipes you’ll want to check them out as they sauce up this recipe.
Additional ingredients that might be new to you include:
Toasted Sesame Oil: This oil comes in a small bottle and can be found in the ethnic or international sections of most grocery stores. If yours doesn’t have it, sesame seeds make a great substitute. Toast them over low heat in a dry pan for just a few minutes before sprinkling on top of your tofu.
Vinegar: Sichuan cooking often calls for an aged dark brown rice vinegar called Chinkiang vinegar. It’s not easy to find in the United States. We sometimes substitute a traditional balsamic vinegar or a simple white rice vinegar. The balsamic has more depth, but also adds a sweet flavor. The white rice vinegar is mildly acidic and gentle. It can be found in most grocery stores in the ethnic or international section.
Sichuan Pepper: Sichuan peppercorn has an unique flavor unlike pungent black pepper. The best way we know how to describe it is as a citrusy flavor that hits you right before slightly numbing your tongue. Dry roast it over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to bring out all its flavor. Make sure not to bring it to the smoking point as then it will taste burnt.
Silken Tofu: If you’ve never had silken tofu, you’re in for a treat! There is something comforting about it’s tender soft texture. Really fresh tofu is unlike anything you’ve bought in the grocery store and if you live near any Asian community be sure to seek it out. --But grocery store silken tofu is also amazing and is what we’ve used in this recipe.
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, be prepared to eat in just a few minutes! Bring your water to a boil. Spoon in the tofu. Chop your green onions and peanuts. Toast the Sichuan Pepper. Set out your condiments. Spoon your tofu into bowls. Let everyone add a little bit of everything to their tofu and dinner is served! We often eat this on its own, but a bit of crunchy fresh cucumber salad on the side is a great balance to this warm rich dish.
1 carton of silken tofu: 11-16 ounces
4 tablespoons of Sweet Aromatic Soy Sauce
Chili Oil to taste (2-8 tablespoons)
4 teaspoons of Toasted Sesame Oil
2 teaspoons of Sichuan Pepper
4 tablespoons of sliced green onions
1/2 cup of chopped peanuts
In a medium saucepan, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Make sure your water is deep enough that your tofu floats when it is added to the pan.
Salt the water as if you are cooking pasta. Using a spoon, scoop large pieces of tofu out of its carton. Drop those scoops directly onto the boiling water.
Turn water down to a simmer, so it just bubbles gently.
Simmer for 5 minutes or until the tofu is warmed throughout.
While tofu warms up, slice your green onions and chop your peanuts.
Toast your Sichuan Pepper in a dry frying pan over medium heat for just a few minutes. Grind to add to tofu. If you don’t have a grinder handy for your Sichuan Pepper, it can simply be crushed with a spoon.
After Tofu is warmed, spoon it into 3-4 bowls. If a little water comes along for the ride--no worries--it adds to the sauciness.
Over each bowl of tofu, spoon 1 tablespoon of Sweet Aromatic Soy Sauce, ½-2 tablespoons of Chili Oil, 1 teaspoon of Toasted Sesame Oil, ½ teaspoon of Sichuan Pepper. Garnish with 1 tablespoon of green onion and 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts. Or even better, let everyone sauce and garnish their own bowl!