To be honest, I think I just needed to make something that included Sichuan Pepeprcorns. I’ve had them for a while, but haven’t really used them. This dish is a bit of a mash-up of a few things, and is full of veggie goodness!
I don’t tend to make one main course, with a few side dishes. Whenever possible, I like to make a big-ass main course that’s full of veggies. When I started looking up Sichuan dishes, most of them were one-vegetable side dishes. I decided to improvise.
The main thing I wanted to highlight was eggplant. I really love eggplant, and it’s great at soaking up flavours. I thought this would be a good vehicle for the sichuan peppercorns and other tasty things. Seeing other recipes for green beans and tofu, I decided to combine them into one dish. They worked together really well, with the crisp green beans, the fried tofu and the soft and flavourful eggplant.
Another thing to consider, when looking at the recipe below, is that I try to not buy too many condiments. For years, I had filled my cupboards and refrigerator with condiments – some only being used once a year! I decided to stop doing that, after throwing away so many half-used bottles of ‘stuff gone bad’. Wasting good ingredients makes me feel bad – and I’d rather make a substitution than buy every single variation on soy sauce or bean paste that a recipe calls for. It may not give exact results, but I’m OK with that.
Not bad, but a little bit oily – and, to be honest – I think all of the flavours overpowered the Sichuan Peppercorns! That sounds so negative, but really it was a tasty dish! One mistake I made, that I have corrected in the recipe below – I added the fried tofu too soon, and it turned out mushy instead of crispy. This should be added back in at the last minute, to keep it crispy. If you aren’t coating and frying the tofu, I would recommend putting it in earlier to give it a chance to absorb some of the flavours.
Sichuan Inspired Eggplant and Green Beans
- 1 3/4 lbs firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Cornstarch to dust the tofu
- 1 medium – large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, ground in a mortar and pestle
- 1/2 cup broth
- 6 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon ginger root, chopped
- 1 tablespoon hot bean sauce (I used brown miso, and added chiles to the recipe see some substitutions options here)
- 1/2 lb green beans or long beans
- 1/2 tablespoon Chin Kiang vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar, see some substitutions options here)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 stalks scallion, chopped
- Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 1/4 inch up the sides and heat. Lightly coat the tofu cubes in cornstarch, then add to the hot oil. (You’ll need to fry the tofu pieces in a few batches so they don’t stew in the pan.). Continue to turn the cubes until they are lightly browned on all sides, with a crispy coating. Transfer finished pieces to paper towels to drain off the excess oil.
- Combine the soy sauces, wine, sugar, salt, sichuan peppercorns and broth in a small bowl.
- Heat the oil in a wok, then turn to medium heat; stir fry the eggplants until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Stir fry the chopped garlic and ginger for a few seconds; add the hot bean sauce (or miso and chiles) and then add the combined seasoning sauce and bring to a boil.
- Add the eggplant and cook about 1 minute until the sauce is gone.
- Toss in the green beans and cook for a couple more minutes..
- Add the vinegar and sesame oil; continue to stir fry.
- Finally mix in the chopped scallion, top with fried tofu and serve.