That Spicy Chick

Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies

This Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies is easy to make, full of addictive garlicky and spicy flavors, and downright delicious with piping hot steamed rice! It’s customizable with your favorite protein and vegetarian adaptable too.

Tender tofu cubes and savory ground pork in a glorious spicy, garlicky and sour sauce with fragrant aromatics. This Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies is a quick and easy weeknight meal and SO DELICIOUS!

If you’ve tried my Yu Xiang Chicken or Yu Xiang Qie Zi (fish-fragrant eggplant), you’ll notice that this dish has similar characteristics of Sichuan “yu xiang” (fish-fragrant) dishes due to the aromatics (garlic, ginger, spring onion) used and pickled chopped chilies. There aren’t any fish ingredients in “yu xiang” dishes though.

However, the style of cooking is similar to the way authentic mapo tofu is cooked, which makes this dish a quick and easy one wok wonder!

Although not meat heavy, it’s incredibly satisfying with piping hot steamed rice. You can also make it vegetarian/vegan by swapping the pork for a plant-based protein or chopped shiitake mushrooms if needed.

Bowl with a spoon and spicy tofu and pork dish. Rice bowls behind.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Quick and easy to make! It’s ready to go in just 30 minutes and perfect for busy weeknights.
  • Customizable protein. You can customize it with your favorite protein and make it vegetarian too.
  • Umami loaded ingredients. The Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce adds spicy and tangy flavors, while Chinese fermented black beans add savory umami notes.
  • Satisfying and filling! Serve it with steamed rice and some stir-fried or steamed Asian greens and you’ll have yourself a full Chinese meal at home that’s so much better than takeout!

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled fresh and pantry ingredients for Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies on a wooden board.
Fresh and Pantry Indredients
  • Marinated Ground Pork: I marinated the ground pork in low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, ground white pepper, and a splash of sesame oil. Feel free to use ground beef, chicken, or turkey if you prefer. Alternatively, use a plant-based ground meat substitute (Impossible Meat, Beyond Beef, OmniPork, etc.) in place of the pork to make this vegetarian. You could also use finely chopped Asian brown mushroom (such as shiitakes). If doing so, skip the marinade ingredients and the ground white pepper to the stir-fry at the end instead.
  • Firm White Tofu: I like to use firm tofu for this dish. It has a little give to it when squeezed gently and doesn’t fall apart as easily. You’re welcome to use silken tofu if you prefer. However, you’d have to handle it very carefully as it’s very delicate and prone to breaking.
  • Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies: Any small hot red chilies can be used instead. Use less or more to taste based on your heat level preference. Omit for a milder dish.
  • Dried Red Chilies: Pictured here are Chinese Xiao Mi La dried chilies, which are quite hot. Any medium-hot or hot Chinese dried chilies that are easily available to you can be used. You can also use Thai Bird’s Eye dried chilies. However, you may want to use fewer pieces as they are very spicy. Shake out some of the seeds for a milder dish.
  • Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies Sauce: A key ingredient in this dish to add some hot and tangy flavors! It’s a blend of chopped hot red chilies, water, salt, MSG, and potassium sorbate (a food preservative). While delicious as a topping condiment, it’s excellent in stir-fries like Yu Xiang Chicken too! Try finding it in an Asian or Chinese supermarket or purchase it online. If unavailable, substitute with sambal oelek, or chopped Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies for a similar flavor. If you happen to live in the Sichuan region or in China, use pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies (pao la jiao – 泡辣椒).
  • Fermented Black Beans (douchi – 豆豉): These are black soybeans that have been fermented with salt. They’re also known as preserved or salted black beans. They add savory umami notes to dishes like mapo tofu, Chicken with Spicy Black Bean Sauce, and Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce. Find them in packages or cans at an Asian or Chinese supermarket. Or purchase them online.
  • Potato Starch Slurry: This will thicken the sauce the same way a corn starch slurry does. In fact, feel free to use corn starch in place of the potato starch instead.
  • Peanut Oil: Or use any neutral flavored cooking oil such as rice bran, vegetable, canola oil, etc.
Labeled sauce ingredients for Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies.
Stir-fry Sauce Ingredients
  • Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: Low sodium so that we can control the salt level better.
  • Shao Xing Rice Wine: This is a fragrant Chinese cooking wine with a floral aroma. Find it at an Asian supermarket or in a mainstream supermarket that’s well-stocked with international ingredients. Substitute with dry sherry if unavailable.
  • Chinkiang Vinegar: This is a Chinese black vinegar available at Asian supermarkets and online. Gold Plum is a popular brand and their Chinkiang vinegar is readily available outside of Asia. In a pinch, you can substitute with half distilled white vinegar and half balsamic vinegar to yield a similar flavor.
  • Dark Soy Sauce: This is thicker than light soy sauce and mainly used for color. Substitute with low sodium light soy sauce if unavailable.
  • Sweet Bean Sauce (tian mian jiang – 甜面酱): Also known as sweet flour sauce, sweet wheat paste, or just sweet sauce. This is a confusing ingredient because although the word “bean” is included in the name sometimes, the primary ingredient is wheat. Some versions don’t have any type of fermented soybeans in it! It’s a sweet dark brown sauce/paste that’s similar to oyster sauce in texture but thicker. Look for it in an Asian or Chinese supermarket, or find it online. You can substitute with hoisin sauce or oyster sauce for a slightly different but still delicious flavor for the dish.
  • Granulated White Sugar: Feel free to use less or more to taste. Err on the side of caution as the sweet bean sauce is quite sweet already.
  • Pure Chili Oil: Use a chili oil without flakes/seeds. Feel free to omit if less heat is desired.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

Closeup of spoon in serving bowl with spicy tofu and pork dish.

How to Make Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies

1. Cook the pork. In a little bit of oil and over high heat until just cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Sauté the pickled red chilies and black beans. Add a little more oil to the wok and sauté the pickled red chilies for a few seconds. Then add the fermented black beans and sauté for another couple of seconds until aromatic.

3. Stir-fry the aromatics. The garlic, ginger, and spring onion white and light green parts for a few seconds until fragrant.

4. Toss the fresh and dried red chilies. Just briefly to combine.

First four process steps to make Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies in a wok.

5. Stir in the sauce until combined well. Simmer for a minute until just starting to bubble.

6. Add the tofu and pork. Nudge the tofu cubes gently with the back of your spatula to combine to avoid breaking them. Simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.

7. Stir in the potato starch slurry until combined well. Again, take care and try not to break the tofu cubes. Simmer for a minute until thickened.

8. Stir through spring onion greens parts. Reserve a little for garnish. Switch off the heat.

Final steps to make Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies in a wok.

Serve! Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the reserved spring onion. Serve immediately with warm steamed rice!

Closeup front view of bowl with pickled chilies tofu dish.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Adjust sauce consistency to your preference. Feel free to use less potato starch slurry if you prefer a slightly less thick sauce. You can add more potato starch to the slurry if you want a thicker sauce.
  • Adjust spice level to taste. As with all my recipes, the heat level is customizable based on your preference. Use less of (or omit) the fresh Bird’s Eye red chilies, Chinese dried chilies, and chili oil in the stir-fry sauce for a milder dish. Or use more of these ingredients for spicier dish! As for Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce, I recommend reducing to 2 tablespoons from 3 tablespoons at the most for a milder dish. Reducing the amount further will take away too much of the tangy and savory umami notes from this dish.
Spoon holding up tofu cube and pork with spicy sauce.

FAQs

Where to buy firm tofu?

In Asia, you can find firm tofu at the stall selling tofu products in wet markets. Packages of firm tofu are also sold in almost all supermarkets. In the US and elsewhere, firm tofu can be found in packages in refrigerated shelves at most supermarkets and grocery stores, as well as in Asian and Chinese supermarkets. Wal-Mart, Target, Trader Joes, Whole Foods are just a few examples of stores where you can purchase firm tofu.

Is Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce spicy?

Similar to sambal oelek, Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce is deliciously spicy and tangy and very addictive. Adding two to three tablespoons will result in a medium to hot spicy dish.

Spoon holding up tofu cube and closeup of spicy tofu and pork dish. Text overlay "Braised Tofu & Pork with Pickled Chilies" and "thatspicychick.com".

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Closeup of bowl with Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies.

Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies

Easy to make and full of addictive garlicky and spicy flavors, this Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies is downright delicious with piping hot steamed rice!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 18
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 28 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Braise
  • Cuisine: Sichuan
Scale

Ingredients

For the Pork Marinade:

  • 100 grams / 3.5 ounces Ground Pork (see note 1)
  • ½ TSP Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • ½ TSP Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • 1/8 TSP ground White Pepper
  • ¼ TSP Sesame Oil

For the Sauce:

  • 1.5 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • 1 TBLS Chinkiang Vinegar
  • ½ TSP Dark Soy Sauce
  • ½ TBLS Sweet Bean Sauce (see note 2)
  • 23 TSP White Sugar, to taste
  • 1 TSP Sesame Oil
  • 1 TSP Pure Chili Oil (without flakes/seeds)
  • ½ cup / 118ml Water

For the Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies:

  • 350 grams / 12.35 ounce package Firm White Tofu – drained, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 6 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 2 TBLS minced Ginger
  • 2 Spring Onion (Scallion/Green Onion) – small chopped, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
  • 28 fresh Red Chilies (Thai Bird’s Eye or any small hot red chilies), to taste – chopped
  • 210 Chinese Dried Red Chilies (see note 3) – stems removed, snipped into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 TBLS Peanut Oil (or any other neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point)
  • 23 TBLS Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies Sauce (see note 4)
  • 1 TBLS Fermented Black Beans (see note 5) – rinsed
  • 1 TBLS Potato Starch (or Corn Starch)
  • 3 TBLS Water

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Marinate the pork: Combine the ground pork, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, ground white pepper, and sesame oil in a medium sized bowl. Mix well to combine, then set aside.
  2. Make the sauce: Mix together the low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, Chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, sweet bean sauce, white sugar, sesame oil, pure chili oil (if using), and water in a large measuring cup (for easier pouring) or bowl until combined well.
  3. Prepare the fresh and dry ingredients: Drain the water from the package of tofu and pat-dry the block with kitchen paper towels. Gently squeeze so that the paper towel absorbs the water. Place the block on a cutting board and cut into ¾-inch cubes. Set aside. Chop the garlic, ginger, spring onion (separate the white and light green parts from the dark green parts), fresh red chilies, and dried red chilies as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Place the fermented black beans in a small fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water from the sink until the water runs clear. Set aside.

For the Braised Tofu and Pork with Pickled Chilies:

  1. Cook the pork: Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large wok over high heat. Once hot, add the marinated pork and cook for 1 minute, breaking up the clumps with your spatula until just cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of pork fat from the wok.
  2. Sauté the pickled red chilies and black beans: Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil to the wok and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the pickled red chilies and sauté for 20-30 seconds. Add the fermented black beans and sauté for another 20 seconds until aromatic.
  3. Stir-fry the aromatics: Add the garlic, ginger, and spring onion white and light green parts. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Toss the chilies: Add the fresh and dried red chilies and toss for 30 second to combine.
  5. Stir in the sauce: Pour the sauce into the wok and stir to combine. Simmer for a minute.
  6. Add the tofu and pork: Carefully add the tofu cubes and cooked pork and stir gently to combine. Simmer for 2-3 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  7. Stir in the potato starch slurry: Mix together the 1 tablespoon potato starch and 3 tablespoons water in a measuring cup (or bowl) until combined. Stir in the slurry until combined well, taking care to not break the tofu cubes. Simmer for a minute until thickened. If the sauce thickens too much too quickly, add a splash of water or two until your desired consistency is reached.
  8. Stir through spring onion greens: Stir in most of the spring onion dark green parts (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish), then switch off the heat.
  9. To Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl/dish and garnish with the reserved spring onion. Serve immediately with warm steamed rice.

Notes

  1. Ground Pork. Feel free to use ground beef, chicken, or turkey instead of pork if you prefer. Alternatively, use a plant-based ground meat substitute (Impossible Meat, Beyond Beef, OmniPork, etc.) to make this vegetarian. Finely chopped Asian brown mushroom (such as shiitakes) can also be used instead. If doing so, skip the marinade ingredients and add the ground white pepper to the stir-fry at the end instead.
  2. Sweet Bean Sauce (tian mian jiang – 甜面酱). Also known as sweet flour sauce, sweet wheat paste, or just sweet sauce. This is a confusing ingredient because although the word “bean” is included in the name sometimes, the primary ingredient is wheat. Some versions don’t have any type of fermented soybeans in it! It’s a sweet dark brown sauce/paste that’s similar to oyster sauce in texture but thicker. Look for it in an Asian or Chinese supermarket, or find it online. Substitute with hoisin sauce or oyster sauce for a slightly different but still delicious flavor for the dish.
  3. Chinese Dried Red Chilies. I used spicy Xiao Mi La dried chilies. Any medium-hot or hot Chinese dried chilies that are easily available to you can be used. You can also use Thai Bird’s Eye dried chilies. However, you may want to use fewer pieces as they are hotter than most Chinese dried chilies. Shake out some of the seeds for a milder dish.
  4. Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce. Made with a blend of chopped hot red chilies, water, salt, MSG, and potassium sorbate (food preservative), this sauce adds spicy and tangy flavors. While Look for it in an Asian or Chinese supermarket or purchase it online. If unavailable, substitute with sambal oelek, or chopped Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies for a similar flavor. If you happen to live in the Sichuan region or in China, use pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies (pao la jiao – 泡辣椒).
  5. Fermented Black Beans (douchi – 豆豉). These are black soybeans that have been fermented with salt. They’re also known as preserved or salted black beans. They add savory umami notes and can be found in packages or cans at an Asian or Chinese supermarket and online.
  6. Adjust sauce consistency to your preference. Add less (thinner sauce) or more (thicker sauce) potato starch to the potato starch slurry mixture based on your sauce consistency preference.
  7. Adjust spice level to taste. Use less of (or omit) the fresh Bird’s Eye red chilies, Chinese dried chilies, and chili oil in the stir-fry sauce for a milder dish. Or use more of these ingredients for spicier dish! As for Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce, I recommend reducing to 2 tablespoons from 3 tablespoons at the most for a milder dish. Reducing the amount further will take away too much of the tangy and savory umami notes from this dish.
  8. Recipe adapted from Ian Benites.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 337
  • Sugar: 7.8g
  • Sodium: 442.2mg
  • Fat: 22.8g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.5g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 16.6g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 20.3g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 14.9g
  • Cholesterol: 18.1mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

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