Fiery Pan-Seared Tofu Delights

A Culinary Journey to Xi’an

On a whimsical journey to Xi’an, we chanced upon fiery pan-seared tofu, locally revered as “tieban dofu.” This tofu, laced with Xinjiang’s potent spices like cumin and chili, sings with robust flavors. Its appeal isn’t just in its vibrant vegan essence, but in how it delivers such an indulgent taste experience that you’d scarcely believe it’s devoid of meat.

Pair it with verdant greens and perhaps a serving of rice if you’re in the mood for some extra indulgence. While our local market offers fresh tofu that’s unparalleled in taste and texture, there’s no reason the store-bought firm tofu won’t do justice to this recipe. And for those with an undying love for tofu, delve into our plethora of tofu creations once you’ve had a taste of this!


  • 1 pound sturdy tofu
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder (feel free to skip)
  • 1 teaspoon fiery red chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic essence
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil, with an extra teaspoon set aside
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin elixir
  • 1 teaspoon classic soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (finely snipped)
  • 1 tablespoon scallion (finely sliced)

Steps to Savor

  1. Begin by unwrapping the tofu, setting it on a dish to drain its excess water for roughly 10 minutes. Carve it into slices approximately ¾-inch in thickness. Taking a mortar and pestle, gently crush the cumin seeds, followed by the addition of the Sichuan peppercorn powder (if opted for), chili essence, garlic powder, and salt. Merge these ingredients.
  2. In a petite bowl, blend the teaspoon of oil with hoisin and soy sauce. Heat the designated 2 tablespoons of oil within a cast iron skillet or a reliable nonstick pan on high flame, gently positioning the tofu slabs.
  3. Proceed to uniformly sprinkle approximately half of the earlier prepared dried spices over the tofu. Allow it to sear for a duration of 3-5 minutes. Once the underside turns a delectable golden hue, it’s time to flip! Glaze the tofu with half of the liquid sauce, followed by evenly dusting the remaining dry spices. Another 3-minute sear, and it’s time for the tofu to be flipped once more.
  4. Finish off by applying the rest of the sauce, garnishing with scallions and cilantro, and there you have it – a plate of sheer delight ready to be devoured!

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