Have you ever had Hunan tofu? Hunan tofu is a popular dish in Chinese cuisine in any Chinese restaurant. It features tofu as the main ingredient. Additional ingredients include red bell peppers, baby corn, black wood ear, and other seasonings to balance the flavors. Overall, this dish is characterized by its bold and spicy flavor profile, with the tofu serving as a mild base to absorb the flavors of the sauce.
In this blog post, I'll explore everything you need to know to make delicious Hunan tofu dishes at home; read on!
What is Hunan style cooking?
Hunan-style cooking is a popular Chinese technique known as "Xiang cuisine 湘菜" and is one of China's eight major regional cuisines. It originates from the Hunan province in southern China and is known for its spicy and bold flavors, vibrant colors, and diverse ingredients. Some of the key features of Hunan cuisine include:
- Hunan cuisine is famous for its fiery and bold use of chili peppers. The cuisine embraces a variety of chili types, such as fresh red pepper, dried chilies, and pickled chilies. Depending on the dish, the heat can range from mild to spicy.
- Fermented and preserved ingredients, such as black bean paste and fermented tofu, are commonly used in Hunan cuisine to add depth and complexity to dishes.
- Hunan cooking uses aromatic ingredients like garlic, ginger, and green onion to enhance the fragrance and flavor of dishes.
- Hunan dishes often feature a balance of textures, including tender, crispy, and chewy elements.
There is another well-known dish, "Mapo tofu," which is also from Hunan cuisine. Hunan cuisine is genuinely beloved by those who appreciate spicy and flavorful food.
Extra firm tofu: Extra firm tofu has a dense and sturdy texture. I recommend using it, especially for its texture and ability to hold up well during cooking. Do not use soft tofu; it will break easily.
Vegetable oil: To fry the tofu pieces.
Fresh ginger slices, minced garlic, whole red chilis, and green onions: These "must-have" ingredients in Chinese cooking add a distinct dimension of taste and aroma to the dish!
Chili black bean paste: Using this spicy fermented black beans paste adds a complex flavor profile that is characteristic of Hunan cuisine. It contains spicy, salty, savory, and slightly fermented flavors.
Water (or vegetable broth): Water helps adjust the consistency. It also helps to balance the sauce texture rather than being overly dry. This can be especially useful if you're using a pan that isn't well-seasoned or non-stick.
Black wood ear, baby corn, and red bell pepper: You can also substitute them with various vegetables such as bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms or your favorite vegetables.
Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar: They are common ingredients added to Hunan tofu recipes to enhance the taste of the dish
Cornstarch mixture: A good ratio is 1 part of cornstarch to 2 parts of water.
How to make Hunan-style tofu step by step
Here's a step-by-step guide to making Hunan Tofu:
Gather all the ingredients and cut the tofu into small triangle shapes.
Heat some oil in the flat nonstick pan, gently add tofu and fry until golden brown. Set aside once it's done.
Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic, whole dried red peppers, ginger slices and green onions. Sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.
Add black wood ear, baby corn, and red bell peppers and stir fry for another 30 seconds.
Add the chili black bean paste, light soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, Shaoxing wine, and mix well. Stir fry again until the mixture becomes aromatic. Followed by a cup of water(vegetable broth) and cornstarch mixture.
Fold fried tofu in and reduce to medium heat. Let the tofu simmer in the sauce for a few minutes to absorb the flavors. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few more minutes until it reaches your desired consistency.
Turn off the heat and serve with steamed white rice. Enjoy your homemade Hunan tofu!
Pro tips for cooking perfect Hunan tofu
Here are some tips to help you make perfect Hunan tofu:
- Use extra firm tofu: Hunan tofu is traditionally made with extra firm or firm tofu because it holds its shape well.
- Hunan tofu is known for its spicy flavor, but you don't want it to be overwhelmingly hot. Adjust the spiciness level by varying the amount of spicy bean paste and chili peppers.
- Stir-fry the aromatics first: Garlic, ginger, and chili peppers are essential ingredients in Hunan tofu, and stir-frying them first allows their flavors to infuse the oil before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- Use a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce: This will help the sauce thicken and cling to the tofu and vegetables.
By following these tips, you should be able to make perfect Hunan tofu that is flavorful!
Storing and reheating leftovers
You can store this flavorful dish in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If you want to store it for longer, you can freeze it for up to 3 months, but note that the texture of the tofu may change slightly after freezing.
To reheat Hunan tofu, you can either microwave it on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated. You can also stir fry the Hunan tofu in the pan for 2-3 minutes on the stovetop until heated. The tofu may be slightly softer after reheating, but it should still be tasty and flavorful.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Tofu is a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. Hunan-style cooking is a great way to add a burst of flavor to any dish. Whether you're a tofu lover or simply looking to try a new and exciting vegetarian dish, Hunan tofu is worth a try. 🙂
Authentic Hunan Tofu Recipe (Stir-fry In Hunan-style)
- 1 block of extra firm tofu
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 slices of fresh ginger
- 1 or 2 whole red chili
- 4 bunches green onions cut to 1-inch size
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons chili black bean paste
- 1 cup water or vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons black wood ear
- 2 tablespoons baby corn
- ½ medium red bell pepper sliced
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- pinch of sugar
- Gather all the ingredients and cut the tofu into small triangle shapes.
- Heat some oil in the flat nonstick pan, gently add tofu and fry until golden brown. Set aside once it's done.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic, whole dried red peppers, ginger slices, green onions, and sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add black wood ear, baby corn, and red bell peppers and stir fry for another 30 seconds.
- Add the chili black bean paste, light soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, and Shaoxing wine, and stir fry again until the mixture becomes aromatic. Followed by a cup of water(vegetable broth) and cornstarch mixture.
- Fold fried tofu in and reduce to medium heat. Let the tofu simmer in the sauce for a few minutes to absorb the flavors. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few more minutes until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Turn off the heat and serve with steamed white rice. Enjoy your homemade Hunan tofu!