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Monday, December 10, 2012

Experiment #2: Kung Pao Stirfry with Vegetables

I had an overwhelming craving for a lot of vegetables.   From a peruse through the fridge, I find some tofu, mushrooms, asparagus, baby broccoli, bell peppers, and red onions. My mother used to make a lot of kung bao chicken growing up and as a I've gotten older I have used the kung bao sauce for my stirfries with my husband.

The key to stir fry is a really hot wok, and quick tossing to stir fry the vegetables and not steam them so they remain crisp and fairly fresh.  Since it is a very quick process, it is really important to have everything ready before you heat the wok.

Lots of chopping later... A colorful plate of vegetables and tofu is ready.  

You can use a variety of vegetables for this dish.  I used what I happen to have on hand.  
1/2 red onion chopped
4 oz. white button mushrooms sliced
1/2 yellow pepper chopped
1/2 orange yellow pepper, chopped
3 stalks baby broccoli, stems sliced and florets cut off
A handful of cherry tomatoes chopped
5 stalks asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch sticks
8 oz. tofu pressed of water and cubed

The Key Ingredients for Kung Pao Sauce: Dried chiles, ginger and garlic
 I like to grate the ginger and the garlic with a microplane so that it melts into the sauce instead of the original recipe which calls for pieces of ginger.

1 clove of elephant garlic (equivalent to 4 cloves of typical garlic)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
5 dried red chiles

In a small saucepan, I place the sauce ingredients in a pan (reduced sodium tamari, honey, rice wine vinegar, and cornstarch) and stirred before heating the sauce ingredients until it is slightly thickened.  My sauce ratio:  3 parts tamari, 2 parts honey and 1 part rice wine vinegar.

3 tablespoons of tamari
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

To start I heated peanut oil and then cooked the tofu tossing to brown all the sides.
 After the tofu is brown on the outside, I add the ginger, garlic, a few broken dried chiles, and splashed some reduced sodium tamari.  I set aside the tofu on a plate.

I had never cooked button mushrooms in a stirfry, but I thought I should treat it like the tofu as well and precooked the mushrooms.  Again another splash of peanut oil in the wok heated a bit and then toss in the sliced button mushrooms until cooked and a splash of tamari.  I set the mushrooms aside on the plate with the tofu.

The start of the kung bao sauce.  I heated the peanut oil and added the dried chiles, chopped red onions, ginger and garlic in the pan.  When the aroma starts to make you cough, it is time to add the vegetables.

All the vegetables in the wok: bell peppers, tomatoes, baby broccoli, and asparagus.  This is the time where time is of the essence.  Constant tossing of ingredients will help to cook the vegetables quickly and not steam them.
I added a handful of cashews (I prefer these to the usual peanuts in Kung Bao) and the sauce and toss to coat the vegetables.

In minutes, it is all done and ready to serve over hot cooked rice.  Yum!

This dish turned out well. I enjoyed using the baby broccoli, mushrooms and asparagus.  All ingredients that I'd never used in a stirfry.

The dish was a hit!  Fresh tasting and full of vegetables.

Appropriate for a quick healthy dinner.  It cooks in minutes, with most of the prep done before the wok is even turned on.

Original recipe from Eight Immortal Flavors by Johnny Kan.
The original recipe called for soy sauce, sugar, white vinegar in the sauce.

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