People tend to stereotype Szechuan cuisine as being simply ‘hot and spicy’ – this is not true. What really distinguishes Szechuan cookery is its mastery of the art of flavors. This dish highlights the gorgeous layering of flavors that is the signature of Szechuan cooking. Pickled chillies with fermented bean paste give the dish its warmth and luster; the garlic-ginger-spring onion trinity adds a luxurious kick of flavor and a hint of sweet and sour serves to harmonize all the other tastes. Do not be fooled by the name – there is no fish involved in the recipe at all. So it is also a perfect dish for vegetarians.
- 2 Asian long eggplants (about 500-600gram) 紫皮长茄子
- 2-3 cups cooking oil for deep-drying
- 2 pickled red pepper四川泡椒, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan fermented bean paste (Doubanjiang) 郫县豆瓣酱
- 1 tablespoon garlic cloves, minced蒜末
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced姜末
- 2 tablespoons spring onion, white part and green part minced and separate葱末
- 1/3 teaspoon or none salt
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce生抽
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar镇江香醋
- 2 teaspoons corn flour生粉
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar白糖
- 150ml stock or water
- Roll cut (滚刀切) eggplants into long strips (try to keep some skin on each one). Place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with salt and mix well and leave in the bowl for about 30 minutes. You will get about ½ cup of water coming out of the eggplant. Drain before moving the next step.
- Prepare a separate bowl; mix all the ingredients for the seasoning sauce. Set aside.
- In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 350°F (180˚C). Carefully add the eggplant in batches and deep-fry for three to four minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Pour the deep-frying oil into a bowl. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the oil to the same wok. Turn to a low-medium heat. When the wok is hot again, minced ginger, garlic and spring onions (white part) until fragrant, then add the pickled pepper and Szechuan fermented bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red. Return the deep-dried eggplants, mix well and fry for a minute. Gently pour into the seasoning sauce. Let them simmer in the wok for a minute or so to absorb the flavors of the sauce. Stir a few times to make sure the eggplants are well coated.
- Move from wok, sprinkle chopped green onion.
Since both doubanjiang (fermented bean paste) and soy sauce contain salt. So you may just need a little bit or none of the salt at all in this recipe.
Szechuan cuisine owes its notoriety to the Hot-and-Numbing Flavor’（麻辣味má là wèi), a powerful combination of chilies and Szechuan peppercorns. You either like it or hate it. No need to explain more about this humble yet classic Szechuan dish. – it is simply addictive. Ignore the pork in the recipe for a vegetarian alternative.
- 1 packet (about 400g) firm or extra firm Tofu 北豆腐
- 100g minced pork or beef 猪肉或牛肉末(vegetarians can simply skip this)
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil 香油
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons Szechuan fermented bean paste (Doubanjiang)四川郫县豆瓣酱
- 2 tablespoons spring onions (white part only)葱白, 切成末
- 1/2 tablespoon ginger, minced姜末
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced蒜末
- 1/2 tablespoon fermented black beans, minced豆豉切碎
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce生抽
- 4 tablespoons garlic greens, chopped 青蒜苗段 (green part only)
- 400ml water in room temperature or chicken broth for braising
- 1/2 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorn powder四川花椒粉
- 1 teaspoon sugar （optional）
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoon water in room temperature
- 1 tablespoon corn starch生粉
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sesame oil to minced pork or beef. Mix well and set aside.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 2 and ½ tablespoons of water in a small bowl to make the water starch.
- Cut tofu into square cubes (around 2cms). Bring a large amount of water to a boil and then add a pinch of salt. Slide the tofu in and cook for 1 minute. Move out and drain.
- Get a wok and heat up around 2 tablespoons of oil, fry the minced meat until crispy. Transfer out beef out and leave the oil in.
- Fry doubanjiang for 1 minute over slow fire and then add minced garlic, spring onion white, ginger and fermented black beans to cook for 30 seconds until aroma. Add 400 ml water to the seasonings and bring to boil over high fire. Gently slide the tofu cubes. Add light soy sauce and pork/beef. Slow the heat after boiling and then simmer for 6-8 minutes. Then add half of the chopped garlic greens.
- Stir the water starch into the simmering pot – do this by three batches to allow tofu even coated with seasonings. Just wait for around 30 seconds before you add another 1 batch of the water starch. Taste the tofu and add pinch of salt if not salty enough. If you feel it is too spicy, adding some sugar can help mild the taste. But be carefully as the broth is very hot at this point.
- Transfer out when almost all the seasonings stick to tofu cubes. Sprinkle Szechuan peppercorn powder (to taste) and the other half of the chopped garlic greens.
- Serve immediately with steamed rice.
The fermented bean paste (doubanjiang) may differ in salinity. So adjust the amount if necessary
The dish exemplifies the Salty-Savoury Flavour (咸鲜味), one of the 24 official complex flavours in Szechuan cuisine while “干煸” gān biān is a popular cooking method used. The texture of dry-fried vegetables is similar to that of grilled ones, with a hint of smoky flavour. Seasonings are added after dry-frying. The method works to remove the initial water content in the ingredients so as to help them absorb the seasonings. To make the best Sichuan dry-fried green beans, you need pick good-quality French beans with a tender and crispy texture.
- 400g fresh green beans （French beans）, ends removed and cut into 8cm long sections四季豆
- 2 cups cooking oil for frying
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce生抽
- ½ teaspoon White sugar白糖
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan Ya Cai 芽菜 (it is essential for the dish. You should be able to find it in any Asian market/wet market or online store)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced， 蒜末
- ½ tablespoon minced ginger，姜末
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns花椒
- 3-5 dried dried red chili, roughly chopped 干辣椒
- Prepare the green beans and drain with paper.
- Heat up oil in a small deep pot until you can see light smoke on the surface over high fire. Add drained green beans by 3 to 4 batches to fry over low to medium heat. Fry 1 batch for about 2-3 minutes. Use chopsticks to stir the beans occasionally during the process. They will be well deep-fried when there are obviously withered. Transfer out on a plate. You can place paper towel on the plate to help filter the extra oil.
- Scoop 1 tablespoon of cooking oil from the pot and place in a frying pan. then add ginger, garlic, Sichuan pepper, ginger, Ya Cai and dried red chili. Fry for another 2-3 minutes. Return green beans along with salt, sugar and light soy sauce. Fry until everything is well combined. Serve hot!
- Ya Cai 芽菜is a pickled vegetable and quite salty. Remember to reduce salt accordingly.