That Spicy Chick

Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce (Sichuan Yu Xiang Style)

This Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce is an easy vegetarian/vegan Sichuan “yu xiang” style stir-fry and boasts the BEST spicy, savory, and tangy notes with a hint of sweetness! Chewy five spice tofu strips, cloud ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, plenty of garlic and chilies get tossed in a mouthwatering bold flavored sauce!

Friends, by now you know I am obsessed with Sichuan “yu xiang” flavors. There’s just something that’s highly addictive about this particular hot and sour garlic sauce.

We already have Yu Xiang Eggplant, Yu Xiang Chicken, and even a “yu xiang” style Chili Garlic Chicken Fried Rice on the blog. It’s now time for a 100% vegetarian and vegan dish made with five spice tofu to shine in this DYNAMITE sauce!

This Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce is a quick and easy “yu xiang” style stir-fry that’s incredibly flavorful and tasty with a bowl of steamed rice! Chewy, yet tender five spice tofu strips, cloud ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and carrots get tossed in a mouthwatering spicy, savory, tangy, and garlicky sauce with just the right amount of sweetness.

While there is a bit of prep work involved with chopping and slicing the ingredients, the actual cooking takes place in ONE WOK in less than 10 minutes. Thanks to the meaty and chewy texture of dried five spice tofu, both vegetarians/vegans and die-hard meat lovers are guaranteed to enjoy this dish and be satisfied!

Closeup front side view of plate with spicy dried tofu stir-fry.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Quick and easy to make and ready in 30 minutes. Although there is quite a bit of prep work involved, the stir-fry is a breeze and ready in under 10 minutes.
  • EXPLODING with flavor! It’s full of savory, garlicky, spicy and sour flavors with a hint of sweetness!
  • Best textures. Rubbery and tender cloud ear mushrooms and crisp bamboo shoots and carrots compliment the chewy texture of the five spice tofu strips.
  • Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce replaces the traditional Sichuan pickled chilies (which are can be difficult to source outside of China) used for this stir-fry and delivers the signature hot and sour flavors.
  • Using five spice tofu/beancurd adds an extra layer of flavor since the tofu is already seasoned. Also, since it’s a dried type of extra firm tofu, it doesn’t break easily during stir-frying in the wok.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled ingredients for Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce (Sichuan Yu Xiang Tofu) on a wooden board.
Fresh & Pantry Ingredients
  • Five Spiced Tofu/Beancurd (wu xiang dou fu gan – 五香豆腐干): This is a dried tofu (dou fu gan) that has been marinated in soy sauce and other seasonings and spices (usually five spice powder). It is pressed tofu that is extra firm and brown on the outside with a whitish inside. It’s available in the form of small thin bricks in vacuum sealed packs. Just like the pressed brown tofu used for pad thai, it has a meaty and chewy texture. You can find it in Asian and Chinese supermarkets and shops selling tofu products in wet markets in Asia. Avoid purchasing one with sugar listed as one of the seasonings in the ingredients list. It may make the dish too sweet. You’re welcome to use regular dried pressed firm tofu if you prefer.
  • Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies Sauce: “Yu xiang” dishes are traditionally made with pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies (pao la jiao – 泡辣椒) in the Sichuan region. As they are not easy to find outside of China, I used Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce instead. It’s a great substitute since it has a similar hot and tangy flavor profile. Find it in an Asian supermarket or purchase it online. There are a few other options when it comes to substituting for pickled er jing tiao chilies. You can use Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies or sambal oelek to yield a similar flavor. Another good substitute would be Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang (fermented chili bean paste) which can be found at Asian supermarkets and online.
  • Dried Cloud Ear Mushrooms: Although this dish is traditionally made with a Chinese wood ear mushrooms, I used dried cloud ear mushrooms. They’re both similar in texture, appearance, and taste. Once you’ve soaked them in a bowl of water to rehydrate them, they will expand and become tender and rubbery. You can use fresh cloud or wood ear mushrooms if you can find them in an Asian supermarket near you. Note that fresh cloud/wood ear mushrooms will only need to be rinsed before slicing, not soaked.
  • Bamboo Shoots: This is the tender part of the bamboo plant and is a vegetable that is commonly used in Asian and Sichuan cuisine. It’s available in fresh, dried, frozen, and canned form. Canned or fresh is preferred for this recipe, and I used pre-sliced canned pickled bamboo shoots here. Look for it in an Asian supermarket, at a Thai grocery shop, or online. Substitute with julienned celery, Chinese celery, or celtuce if unavailable.
  • Fresh Red Chilies: I used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies, but any small hot red chilies will work. Feel free to use as many or few as you like depending on your heat level preference. You can omit them for a milder dish since there is heat coming from the pickled chilies sauce too.
  • Dried Red Chilies: I used Chinese Xiao Mi La dried red chilies here which are quite hot. Any type of small Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used though. Use less if using Thai Bird’s Eye dried red chilies as they tend to be hotter than most Chinese dried red chilies.
  • Peanut Oil: Or use any other neutral flavor cooking oil with a high smoke point.
Labeled sauce ingredients and stir-fry sauce in a measuring cup for Yu Xiang Chicken.
Stir-fry Sauce Ingredients
  • Potato Starch: Or use corn starch as the thickening agent for the sauce instead.
  • Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: Using low sodium soy sauce allows us to control the salt level better.
  • Shao Xing Rice Wine: This is a fragrant Chinese cooking wine with a floral aroma. Find it in your local Asian or Chinese supermarket or mainstream supermarket that is well-stocked with international ingredients. Substitute with dry sherry if unavailable. Or use apple juice for a nonalcoholic substitute.
  • Chinkiang Vinegar: This is a Chinese black vinegar and can be found in Asian or Chinese supermarkets. If you can’t find it, use half balsamic and half white vinegar to yield a similar flavor.
  • Dark Soy Sauce: This is mainly used for color. It’s less salty than regular light soy sauce. If you don’t have it on hand, simply substitute with low sodium light soy sauce.
  • Pure Chili Oil (without flakes/seeds): I add a little chili oil to the stir-fry sauce to make the dish spicier. You can leave it out if you prefer a milder dish.

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

Front view of plate with five spiced tofu stir-fry.

How to Make Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce

1. Sauté the pickled chilies sauce. Heat oil in a large wok and sauté the pickled chilies sauce for a few seconds until shimmering.

2. Stir-fry the aromatics. Add the spring onion white and light green parts, ginger, garlic and stir-fry until fragrant.

3. Add the carrots. Stir-fry until slightly softened.

4. Stir-fry the fresh and dried red chilies. Take care to not let the dried red chilies burn.

Process steps to cook Yu Xiang Tofu in a wok.

5. Add the blanched bamboo shoots and cloud ear mushrooms. Toss to combine.

6. Add the tofu and sauce. Stir-fry until the sauce thickens and clings to everything well.

7. Toss through spring onion dark green parts. Only briefly to combine, then switch off the heat.

Added bamboo shoots and mushrooms, tofu strips and sauce, and spring onion to wok.

Serve! Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice!

Plate with tofu strips stir-fry and two bowls with rice.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Prepare everything before you start cooking. There is quite a bit of prep work for this stir-fry, but the actual cooking takes less than 10 minutes. It’s best to prep everything and have all the ingredients by the side of your wok before you switch on the stove.
  • Use a large wok or heavy bottomed frying pan. A nonstick carbon steel or cast iron wok is best and will deliver the signature wok hei (“breath of the wok”) to the stir-fry dish. However, a deep heavy bottomed frying pan will work too if you don’t own a wok.
  • Adjust spice level to suit your preference. For a milder dish, use less pickled chilies sauce (2 tablespoons instead of 3), fresh red chilies, and dried red chilies. You can also leave out the pure chili oil in the stir-fry sauce.
Top view of plate with Sichuan five spiced tofu stir-fry.
Chopsticks digging into plate with tofu stir-fry.

FAQs

How to use five spice tofu?

You can thinly slice or dice five spice tofu into cubes and use it in stir-fries or braised dishes. It can also be eaten raw on its own or chilled in salads.

How long do canned bamboo shoots last in the fridge?

Leftover canned or fresh bamboo shoots should be stored in a sealed airtight jar filled with water in the fridge. They will last for about 1 week if you change the water daily to prevent it from going bad.

What does “yu xiang” mean?

Fish-fragrance, though there are no fish ingredients added to “yu xiang” dishes. It refers to the style of cooking and the combination of ingredients used to create a hot and sour garlicky sauce for meat and vegetable dishes in the Sichuan region.

Chopsticks digging into plate with tofu stir-fry and plate with stir-fried five spice tofu. Text overlay "Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce", "Sichuan Yu Xiang Style" and "thatspicychick.com".

More Sichuan “Yu Xiang” Style Dishes

More Sichuan Stir-fries


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Top view of plate with Sichuan five spiced tofu stir-fry.

Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce (Sichuan Yu Xiang Tofu)

Five spice tofu, veggies, plenty of garlic and chilies get stir-fried in a mouthwatering and addictive savory, spicy, and sour sauce in this Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Sichuan
  • Diet: Vegetarian
Scale

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • ½ TBLS Potato Starch
  • 23 TSP White Sugar, more or less to taste
  • ¼ TSP Kosher Salt (note 1)
  • 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • 1 TBLS Chinkiang Vinegar
  • ½ TSP Dark Soy Sauce
  • ½ TBLS Sesame Oil
  • ½1 TSP Pure Chili Oil (optional – without flakes/seeds), to taste
  • ¼ cup + 2 TBLS Water

For the Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce Stir-fry:

  • 10 grams / ¼ cup Dried Cloud Ear Mushrooms (or Wood Ear Mushrooms – note 2)
  • 300 grams / 10.5 ounces Five Spiced Beancurd (note 3)
  • 1 Spring Onion (Scallion/Green Onion) – chopped, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
  • 2 TBLS minced Ginger
  • 6 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 15 fresh Red Chilies (optional – note 4), I used Bird’s Eye, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – chopped
  • ½ small (about 50 grams/1.75 ounces) Carrot – peeled, julienned
  • 310 Dried Red Chilies (note 5), to taste – snipped into ½-inch pieces
  • 80 grams / about ½ cup sliced canned Bamboo Shoots (or use fresh – note 6)
  • 3 TBLS Peanut Oil (or other neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point)
  • 3 TBLS Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies Sauce (note 7)

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms: Add the dried cloud ear mushrooms to a bowl and fill with water. Soak for 20 minutes until rehydrated and tender. Drain and pat-dry, then slice into thin strips.
  2. Make the sauce: In a small measuring cup (for easier pouring) or bowl, mix together the potato starch, white sugar, kosher salt, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, Chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, pure chili oil and water until combined well.
  3. Prepare the fresh and dry ingredients: Chop/slice the five spice tofu, spring onion, ginger, garlic, fresh red chilies, carrot, dried red chilies as indicated in the ‘ingredients’ section.
  4. Blanch the bamboo shoots and mushrooms: Drain and rinse the canned bamboo shoots. Slice into thin strips if they are not pre-sliced. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sliced bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water.

For the Tofu with Hot Garlic Sauce:

  1. Stir-fry the aromatics: Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-low heat. Add the pickled chilies sauce (carefully as it may splatter) and sauté for 20 seconds until shimmering. Turn the heat up to medium and add the spring onion white and light green parts, ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Add the carrots: Turn the heat up to high and add the carrots. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until slightly softened.
  3. Stir-fry the chilies: Add the fresh and dried red chilies and stir-fry briefly for 10 seconds, taking care to not let the dried red chilies burn.
  4. Add the veggies: Add the sliced bamboo shoots and mushrooms and toss for 20-30 seconds until combined.
  5. Add the tofu and sauce: Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon to loosen up the potato starch that will have settled at the bottom. Add the tofu and pour the sauce over everything in the wok. Stir-fry for 30-40 seconds, until the sauce thickens and clings to everything well.
  6. Toss through spring onion: Add the spring onion dark green parts and toss through briefly before switching off the heat.
  7. To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice.

Notes

  1. Kosher salt: Since the pickled chilies sauce is already quite salty and the five spiced tofu is pre-seasoned, you won’t need to add much salt. That said, you can add more salt if needed to taste. Use half the amount if using iodized table salt as it is more salty than kosher salt.
  2. Dried cloud/wood ear mushrooms: Although this dish is traditionally made with a Chinese wood ear mushrooms, I used dried cloud ear mushrooms. They’re both similar in texture, appearance, and taste. If using fresh cloud or wood ear mushrooms, you’ll need half cup (about 60 grams). Fresh cloud/wood ear mushrooms will only need to be rinsed before slicing and you can skip the soaking step.
  3. Five Spiced Tofu/Beancurd (wu xiang dou fu gan – 五香豆腐干): This is a dried tofu (dou fu gan) that has been marinated in soy sauce and other seasonings and spices (usually five spice powder). It is pressed tofu that is extra firm and brown on the outside with a whitish inside. It’s available in the form of small thin bricks in vacuum sealed packs. You can find it in Asian and Chinese supermarkets and shops selling tofu products in wet markets in Asia. Avoid purchasing one with sugar listed as one of the seasonings in the ingredients list. It may make the dish too sweet. You can use regular dried pressed firm tofu if you prefer.
  4. Fresh red chilies: Feel free to use less or more to taste and any other hot red chilies you like. Omit for a milder dish.
  5. Dried red chilies: I used Chinese Xiao Mi La dried red chilies here which are quite hot. Any type of small Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used though. Use less if using Thai Bird’s Eye dried red chilies as they tend to be hotter than most Chinese dried red chilies.
  6. Bamboo shoots: This is the tender part of the bamboo plant and is a vegetable that is commonly used in Asian and Sichuan cuisine. It’s available in fresh, dried, frozen, and canned form. Canned or fresh is preferred for this recipe, and I used pre-sliced canned pickled bamboo shoots here. Look for it in an Asian supermarket, at a Thai grocery shop, or online. Leftover canned or fresh bamboo shoots should be stored in a sealed airtight jar filled with water in the fridge. They will last for about 1 week if you change the water daily to prevent it from going bad. You can substitute with peeled and julienned celery, Chinese celery, or celtuce.
  7. Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies Sauce: “Yu xiang” dishes are traditionally made with pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies (pao la jiao – 泡辣椒) in the Sichuan region. They are difficult to source outside of China so I used Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce. It’s a great substitute since it has a similar hot and tangy flavor profile. Look for it an Asian supermarket or purchase it online. You can use Sichuan pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies if you can find them. Or substitute with chopped Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies or sambal oelek in a pinch to yield a similar flavor. I used 3 tablespoons pickled red chilies sauce, but you can use 2 tablespoons for a slightly milder dish. Another good substitute would be Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang (fermented chili bean paste) which can be found at Asian supermarkets and online. However, I recommend using only 1-2 tablespoons dou ban jiang as it is quite salty.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 333
  • Sugar: 6.5g
  • Sodium: 487.5mg
  • Fat: 23.7g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.7g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 10.4g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 14.9g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Protein: 2.6g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

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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