I love strong flavors and plenty of heat. So Sichuan food, known for its spices, is one of my favorite Chinese regional cuisines. Kung Pao Chicken is one of the most well-known Sichuan dishes. It is super-popular on most American Chinese menus. But there's no reason to wait until you go out to enjoy this dish. You can make it at home in just 30 minutes.
And when you make Chinese food yourself you can keep it healthy with less oil and soy sauce. Plus you can bump up the amount of vegetables in it. A combination of broccoli and peppers is delicious. To cut down on prep time I like to use broccoli crowns, which are the tops of the bunches, with the stalks cut off. Most supermarkets sell broccoli crowns and although crowns are more expensive than entire bunches, there is considerably less waste. Tofu makes a delicious stand-in for chicken in Kung Pao Tofu (recipe below) because it soaks up tons of flavor from the sauce.
Here are recipes for healthy versions of Chinese dishes that are easy to make at home:
And here's our easy recipe for Kung Pao Tofu:
Kung Pao Tofu
Active time: 30 minutes | Total: 30 minutes
1 14-ounce package extra-firm water-packed tofu, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder (see Shopping Tip), divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons oyster-flavored or oyster sauce (see Shopping Tip)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
12 ounces broccoli crowns, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces (4 cups)
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts
2 teaspoons hot sesame oil (optional)
1. Pat tofu dry and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine with 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder in a medium bowl.
2. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
3. Meanwhile, whisk water, oyster sauce, cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder in a small bowl.
4. Add broccoli, yellow and red bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low, add the oyster sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Return the tofu to the pan along with peanuts and stir to coat with sauce; stir in hot sesame oil (if using).
Makes 4 servings, about 1 cup each.
Per serving: 200 calories; 11 g fat (2 g sat, 5 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 12 g protein; 5 g fiber; 622 mg sodium; 528 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (230% daily value), Vitamin A (40% dv), Calcium & Folate (25% dv).
Shopping tips: Five-spice powder is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. Look for it in the spice section or with other Asian ingredients.
Be sure to use "oyster-flavored" sauce (it's oyster-free) to make this vegetarian; both it and oyster sauce are found in the Asian-food section or at Asian markets.
By Jessie Price
EatingWell deputy food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.
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