Bang Bang Shrimp + Tofu

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With almost absolute certainty, I think I can say that the pictures I took of this bang bang tofu and shrimp recipe are my favorites of all time… up to this point, at least. Sometimes I’m baffled by how far both my cooking and my food photography have come since late 2018 when I started documenting my recipes. My biggest growth came during lockdown, as all of the additional free time at home (and the much larger kitchen after Alex and I moved) made it much easier to experiment without feeling guilty about “wasting” time and resources. The best thing to come out of lockdown as a whole, though, was the cookbook I wrote, photographed, and self-published this past fall (more information to come on that later). I developed this bang bang tofu and shrimp recipe specifically for that, although I’d made an “unimproved” version of it several times before really sitting down to hammer (pun intended) out the details.

One of the most interesting things about “bang bang” anything is the common misconception that it’s, well, an actual dish. In developing my own version of bang bang tofu and shrimp, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole to figure out exactly where the concept originated. Most people know that the restaurant Bonefish Grill has a version of bang bang shrimp as an appetizer on their menu, but because of the inclusion of Thai sweet chili sauce in many recipes it’s a common misconception that the dish is actually Thai in origin. In fact, the only “bang bang” dish that existed before Bonefish Grill’s test kitchen brought it to life was a Sichuan Chinese dish called bang bang chicken–which is actually something completely different!

Although there are many different stories about how the dish got its name (a mistranslation of “bon bon” to “bang bang”? A reference to the mallet-smashing chicken preparation? Or a reference to the dish’s punching flavor?), one thing remains true: bon bon/bang bang/strange flavor chicken is nothing like what most Americans have come to associate with the bright orange, deep-fried restaurant-style alternative. (Perhaps I’ll do a full dive into the original dish sometime–with a vegan alternative, of course).

Setting aside the “original” dish, though, this restaurant style vegan bang bang tofu and shrimp is a sweet, tangy, crunchy, spicy mouthful of beautifully-hued deliciousness. When the garlicky-hot marinade comes together with the sweet, creamy sauce, you end up with something truly special beyond what you’d find at your average seafood fusion place. Although bang bang tofu and shrimp works amazingly as a main dish–especially when served with a fresh, salty side like blistered green beans (recipe to come)–it also makes for a wonderful appetizer, as well! Just serve it up with some toothpicks and tiny plates, and you’ll be the life of the party.

This recipe makes four servings (two tofu, two shrimp)

Ingredients:

  • 10-15 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8oz tofu, firm or extra firm
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp + 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1 tsp + 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup water, cold
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup almond yogurt, plain
  • 1/3 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (see my recipe here)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • oil (to deep fry)

Directions:

  1. Wrap tofu in a dishtowel and press with a heavy skillet or cookbooks for at least 30 minutes. Slice tofu into bite-sized pieces, about 1 inch.
  2. In each of two sealable containers add 2 tbsp sriracha, 1 tbsp sesame oil, and 1/4 tsp each of spices (coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, white pepper, and salt). Stir to combine, and add shrimp and tofu into separate marinades. Stir again to coat, seal each container, and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, sweet chili sauce, red pepper flakes, maple syrup, sesame seeds, and remaining 1/4 cup sriracha. Stir to combine and set aside.
  4. Begin heating enough oil to deep fry in a high-walled pan or large pot to 350F.
  5. Set up breading station with three bowls. In one, add 1 cup plain flour; in the second, combine 2 cups flour, cold water, and ice cubes; in the third, add panko breadcrumbs.
  6. To fry, dredge marinated shrimp or tofu in the plain flour and shake off excess. Then, dip in the cold tempura batter and let the excess drip off. Finally, dredge in panko breadcrumbs and add to hot oil. Repeat until you have 4-6 of each in the hot oil, careful not to overcrowd the pan, and deep fry for about 3-4 minutes, flipping halfway through if necessary.
  7. Remove to a wire wrack over a paper-towel lined sheet pan to cool lightly and drain excess oil.
  8. When ready to serve, toss in prepared chili sauce (step 2) and top with additional sesame seeds, cilantro, and sliced green onions. Serve over rice with blistered soy green beans.

Bang Bang Tofu and Shrimp

Prep Time1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 10-15 shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz tofu firm or extra firm
  • 2 tbsp sriracha + 2 tbsp + 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp coriander + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp cumin + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper + 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp salt + 1/4 tsp
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour + 2 cups
  • 2 cup water cold
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise vegan as needed
  • 1/3 cup almond yogurt plain
  • 1/3 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • oil to deep fry

Instructions

  • Wrap tofu in a dishtowel and press with a heavy skillet or cookbooks for at least 30 minutes. Slice tofu into bite-sized pieces, about 1 inch.
  • In each of two sealable containers add 2 tbsp sriracha, 1 tbsp sesame oil, and 1/4 tsp each of spices (coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, white pepper, and salt). Stir to combine, and add shrimp and tofu into separate marinades. Stir again to coat, seal each container, and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, sweet chili sauce, red pepper flakes, maple syrup, sesame seeds, and remaining 1/4 cup sriracha. Stir to combine and set aside.
  • Begin heating enough oil to deep fry in a high-walled pan or large pot to 350F.
  • Set up breading station with three bowls. In one, add 1 cup plain flour; in the second, combine 2 cups flour, cold water, and ice cubes; in the third, add panko breadcrumbs.
  • To fry, dredge marinated shrimp or tofu in the plain flour and shake off excess. Then, dip in the cold tempura batter and let the excess drip off. Finally, dredge in panko breadcrumbs and add to hot oil. Repeat until you have 4-6 of each in the hot oil, careful not to overcrowd the pan, and deep fry for about 3-4 minutes, flipping halfway through if necessary.
  • Remove to a wire wrack over a paper-towel lined sheet pan to cool lightly and drain excess oil.
  • When ready to serve, toss in prepared chili sauce (step 2) and top with additional sesame seeds, cilantro, and sliced green onions. Serve over rice with blistered soy green beans.
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