Chile Pepper

Gong Bao Doufu (Kung Pao Tofu)

January 21, 2022
7 Ratings
Photo by WoonHeng Chia
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This dish is inspired by the popular gong bao ji ding, or kung pao chicken, from the Sichuan province in southwestern China. Over the years, there have been many adaptations of this speedy recipe, becoming a favorite at Chinese American restaurants. Beyond chicken, though, this style of stir-fry goes perfectly with vegetables such as cauliflower or plant-based proteins like tofu. Traditionally numbing Sichuan peppercorns are involved, but my everyday Kung Pao Tofu keeps the heat from dried chiles and skips the peppercorns—which is similar to the taste I grew up with from my mom’s cooking. If you would like more oomph, Sichuan peppercorns are included as an option in the ingredient list and instructions below. With soy sauce and Chinkiang vinegar, plus lots of ginger and garlic, this sauce is spicy and savory, with a touch of sweetness and tang. To create a crust that can really grab onto the sauce, I like to coat the tofu with a thin layer of cornstarch before panfrying. The residual moisture from firm tofu is just enough for the starch to stick without much effort. If your tofu feels too dry, you can dampen it with some water before rubbing it with cornstarch. —WoonHeng Chia

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang (Chinese black) vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, divided
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 14 to 16 ounces firm tofu (depending on package size), drained
  • Neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola), for cooking
  • 1 (3-inch) pieces ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 dried chiles (such as Thai or serrano), halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, green parts roughly chopped, white parts finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon toasted, crushed Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted or salted roasted peanuts
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of water, the soy sauces, vinegar, sugar, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, and salt until well combined.
  2. Cut the tofu into roughly 1-inch cubes and transfer to a large bowl. Rub with the remaining 3 tablespoons of cornstarch until all sides are lightly coated.
  3. Pour enough oil to coat the bottom of a large nonstick pan and set it over medium heat. Carefully lower the tofu into the hot oil and panfry until golden brown all over, 1 to 3 minutes per side, adding more oil if the pan looks dry at any point. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Using the same pan, still over medium heat, sauté the ginger until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes, adding more oil if the pan looks dry. Add the chiles, garlic, and white parts of the scallions. Stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
  5. Add the tofu, sauce, and Sichuan peppercorns (if using), then quickly toss until the tofu is evenly coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Fold in the remaining green parts of the scallions and the peanuts.
  6. Serve warm with a bowl of rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • emcsull
  • Cgw571#%
  • Azlynda

4 Reviews

Taylor S. July 9, 2022
WOW. I am floored by how delicious this recipe is. Don’t skimp on the black vinegar, it really is a necessary, unique ingredient. My boyfriend raved about how good this meal was and I can’t wait to make it again.
emcsull April 6, 2022
is or can there be a substitute for Chinkiang vinegar ?
Cgw571#% February 9, 2022
This recipe was absolutely delicious, I literally could not stop eating it which is NOT normal for me! I forwarded the recipe on to several friends and told them that they had to try it. The tofu was still very good the next day when I reheated it. I plan to make it again. One suggestion for subbing out the Chinese black vinegar, which I could not find; I used a good quality balsamic vinegar, cut the sugar down to a teaspoon and it tasted terrific.
Azlynda February 2, 2022
Wow! This version of Kung Pao Tofu is so good, easy to assemble, very tasty sauce and all around great flavor! This will be a staple in our family. The Szechuan peppercorn is a must!