Mapo tofu is one of my favorite dishes, but making a proper Sichuan Mapo Tofu requires a fair amount of work, and Japanese-style Mapo Tofu lacks heat when you're in the mood for a spicy kick. I recently came up with an easy hack that adds loads of flavor and heat by using something you may already have in the fridge: kimchi!
With silky smooth tofu in a spicy sauce brimming with umami, this quick stir-fry can be thrown together in less time than it'll take to cook a pot of rice.
This dish gets a lot of flavor from the Maillard browning as you stir-fry the kimchi and aromatics together. To get browning to happen, you can't have any liquid in the pan. That's why it's important to squeeze the kimchi juice into the sauce ingredients before stir-frying it.
If you've seen my other mapo tofu recipes, you're probably wondering why I don't blanche the tofu here. Blanching soft tofu before adding it to a stir-fry helps firm it up while removing excess water, which keeps it from falling apart, but it is an extra step, and I made this a quick weeknight meal. Because the tofu cooks in the sauce for a bit, it's not a big deal if it releases some water, but you do need to be careful stirring it, or the tofu will fall apart.
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