One thing that I really enjoy doing is making dishes similar to those I love from restaurants. This is much easier said than done since the staff typically isn't in the habit of passing out recipes for their signature dishes. Also let's keep in mind that the chef has many many years of culinary education and I have oh, none? Well no formal education unless you count the school of life that is. One dish that my husband David orders nearly every time we get Chinese food is spicy bean curd with string beans. This is my homemade version that got rave reviews from him. The beans came from our garden so it was extra delicious!
Before I start I'll interject a tip about working with tofu that I found helpful. This tip comes from my friend Maggie. If you like your tofu firm firm buy extra firm tofu and freeze it. As you are thawing it squeeze as much of the water out of it as you possibly can. I did this by putting the block in a colander and putting my cast iron skillet on top of it. When I came back an hour later, POOF! Something about freezing it and thawing it makes the texture more firm.
Mala String Beans with Tofu
1 package of extra firm tofu
1/2 - 3/4 lbs of fresh green beans
2 tbsp soy sauce
1- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
First cube the tofu into 1-2 inch cubes. Keep in mind these will shrink by maybe 1/2 as they fry up. I wish I had cut mine slightly bigger but the taste and texture was still great. If you leave the cubes too large they won't fry evenly, the inside will be mooshy and I personally dislike a non-uniform texture to my fried tofu. Moving on, add 1/4 cup canola oil and 1/3 cup chili oil or so to a skillet and heat it over medium high heat. Add the tofu and fry it until it is golden brown. If you like it hot add some of the chili flakes at the bottom of the jar. Drain the fried tofu on a paper towel.
While the tofu rests add more of the oils to the skillet. This recipe is easily customizable to how hot you like your food. More chili oil = spicier. So use your gut on how much to use. I like mine mild-medium but my husband is a hot-a-holic so i compromised and my recipe was medium-moderate I'd say. Reheat the skillet to medium-high with the new oil and soy sauce, add the beans. Saute 8 minutes or so until they are crispy but cooked. Only add the garlic the last few minutes or else it will burn!