You may be asking, "who the heck is Peng, and why is this bean curd dish named after him?" Well, Peng Chang-Kuei(彭長貴) is a famous Hunan Chef who fled to Taiwan when the Nationalists were on the verge of defeat to the Communists in 1949. He is credited with creating what could possibly be the most well known "Hunan" dish in the Western world, which in fact was not a product of China; General Tso's Chicken. Fuchsia Dunlop tells the story here. Or even better for more stories, as well as the commentary on this recipe get a copy of her book on Hunan cooking; Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province. I found most of the recipes in this book to be easier than those in Land of Plenty.
Just like Barbara Fisher, who made a version of this dish, and documented it on her wonderful blog Tigers & Strawberries, we love the simplicity of this dish. I took a few liberties with the published recipe. For some reason the Missus wanted a vegetarian dish, so I excluded the sliced pork and stock. Because of this, I increased the amount of garlic and dark soy sauce. Also, after cooking a few dishes from the cookbook, and reading Fuchsia Dunlop's commentary, I added a touch of sugar to the recipe. According to the book, Hunan tastebuds are not fond of combining sweet and savory in their dishes. Adding just a bit of sugar seemed to open up the flavors a bit. I use only enough Sesame Oil to add a faint fragrance, and not over-power the dish. One more thing, if you've ever eaten in a good Sichuan or Hunan restaurant, you'll notice that black beans(do not soak) are never crushed, but cooked whole. This explains what seems like the huge amount of black beans in the dish.
Peng's Home-style Bean Curd
1 Block Firm Bean Curd, Drained
1 Tb Shaoxing Wine
3 Scallions - Green parts only
1 Red Serrano Pepper
3-4 Dried Red Chilies
3 Tb Minced Garlic
3-4 Tb Chinese Fermented Black Beans
1 Tb Dark Soy Sauce
1 1/2 Cup Water
Salt to taste
Sugar(if desired) to taste
A light drizzle of Sesame Oil to taste
Chili Oil to taste.
1 Tsp Potato Starch mixed with 1 Tb cold water
1 1/2 cup Canola Oil for Frying
1.Cut the block of bean curd in half diagonally, than lengthwise. Place bean curd on a folded paper towel, place another paper towel on top of the bean curd. Place a plate on top of bean curd with and top off with a few cans. I do this to remove excess water out of the bean curd.
2.Rinse the Black Beans(do not soak) and set aside.
3.Thinly slice the scallions and seed then thinly slice the Serrano Chilies. Tear the Dried Chilies and remove seeds.
5.Heat Canola Oil in a wok to approximately 375 degrees. Fry bean curd in batches until golden brown. (And form your own little "Dofu Xi'an Army")
6.Drain bean curd and set aside.
7.Drain oil from wok, reserving 3-4Tb. Clean wok, dry, and reheat over high heat until smoking.
8.Add the dry chilies and scald. Add garlic, black beans, and Serrano Chilies and cook until fragrant.
9.Add water, bean curd, and dark soy sauce, and bring to a boil.
11.Add potato starch mixture a little at a time, until the desired thickness is reached.
12.Remove from heat and stir in Sesame Oil and Chili Oil. Top with scallions, and have at it.
I hope everyone has a great weekend!