I remember the first time I encountered anything with the words Kung Pao in it, and it was often Kung Pao chicken, from the local Chinese takeout. For some reason, it always tasted good with a can of Pepsi cola, and the peanut bits were my favorite and I’d save them for last.
The peanuts are still my favorite part, but they’re much better than the takeouts of the past; they’re actually local. They’re called Aunt Ruby’s Peanuts, shelled and packaged by A&B Milling Company and come in old-fashioned feedsacks. I love “unzipping” the top of the bag once I find and untie the knot, and the peanuts are larger than normal. Roasting the raw shelled peanuts doesn’t take a long time- about 15 minutes in a 375 F oven, then turn the peanuts, and then put back in oven for another 10 minutes until the peanuts darken and your house smells like roasting peanuts.
This recipe comes from one I saw on Pinterest called Kung Pao Tofu Sliders, but as I don’t eat bread very much these days, I decided to make a rice salad bowl instead. It’s a pretty simple concept: you take a bowl, spoon brown rice on it, add the tofu, and finally, the slaw, letting the rice soak up the slaw dressing. And even though I don’t drink cola anymore, I could see this being a fantastic lunch with a glass of iced tea.
Kung Pao Tofu and Rice Salad, adpated from Eve’s Tasty Apples
- 1 14-oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained
- 4 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbs. agave nectar
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- leftover marinade (from tofu)
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbs. mayonaise
- 2 Tbs. no-salt-added creamy natural peanut butter
- 3 tsp. agave nectar
- 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced (I used a microplane)
- a few pinches of red pepper flakes (if you like it hotter, try a drop or so of sriracha)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 6-8 medium carrots, julienned
- 2 roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- 1/2 red onion or a bunch of scallions, minced
- 1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts (chopped is optional- I like the crunch of whole peanuts)
- Drain tofu for 20 minutes with a foil-covered brick, then slice into 16 pieces and freeze. When using, defrost and add the marinade (soy sauce, agave nectar, sesame oil, cornstarch). You can marinate for however long as you like, as long as it sits for at least an hour.
- To cook, preheat oven to 375F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Drain tofu, and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes. Flip, and bake 20 to 25 minutes more, or until crispy.
While you bake tofu, whisk together leftover marinade, along with additional soy sauce and sesame oil, mayonnaise, peanut butter, sugar, vinegar, oil, garlic, and pepper in bowl. Stir in carrots, roasted red peppers, parsley, onions, and peanuts. Chill until tofu is ready.
Put rice on bottom of bowl, then add tofu, then add slaw on top of everything. Mix gently and eat.
Notes: You could also add some steamed broccoli, edamame, or even sliced cabbage to the slaw.