Fish-fragrant Eggplant鱼香茄子

fish-fragrant eggplant

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.

 Serves 2-4,

  • 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

seasoning sauce

  • 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 wateringrdients

 Method

  1. 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.cut eggplant.JPG
  2. Prepare a separate bowl; mix all the ingredients for the seasoning sauce. Set aside.seasoning sauce
  3. 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.deepfry eggplant
  4. 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.fry seasonings
  5. Move from wok, sprinkle chopped green onion.final

Tips

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.

 

 

Mapo Tofu麻婆豆腐má pó dòu fǔ

cover

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.

Serves 2-4,

  • 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)

Water starch

  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoon    water in room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon                    corn starch生粉ingredients

Method

  1. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sesame oil to minced pork or beef. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 2 and ½ tablespoons of water in a small bowl to make the water starch.
  3. 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.boil tofu
  4. 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.FullSizeRender
  5. 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.fry seasoningscook tofu
  6. 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.add water starch
  7. 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.
  8. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Tips

The fermented bean paste (doubanjiang) may differ in salinity. So adjust the amount if necessary

Kung Pao Chicken 宫保鸡丁

coverServes 3-4,

  • 250g                            chicken fillet or boneless chicken leg, cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 teaspoon               salt
  • 1 tablespoon                Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon                  corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon                   cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons              skinless peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon                   Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon                garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon                ginger, minced
  • 8~10                             dried red chili, roughly chopped
  •  1-2                              leek (only white part), cut into small sections. Try to get 2 small-size of leek if possible. If not, just use 1 big-size one. Slice them into small pieces of 1.5 cm in length. Split the big-size one then slice it into the same length. 大葱切宵 段(只用葱白)
  • 3 tablespoons              cooking oil

 Seasoning Sauce

  • ½ tablespoon              dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon               light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon               corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon               Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons             water in room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons                caster sugaringrdients

Method

  1. Cut the chicken into one -bite size cubes. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and marinating with 1/3 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, 1 teaspoon of corn flour and 1 teaspoon of cooking oil.marinate chicken
  2. Prepare a medium size bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Seasoning Sauce. Mix well. Set aside.seasoning sauce
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of cooking oil in the work. Place peanuts immediately when oil is still cold. Stir fry the peanuts over LOW heat for 2 minutes. Transfer cooked peanuts out. Add Szechuan peppercorns in the remaining oil in the wok over LOW heat. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Skim and remove the cooked peppercorns if you feel them annoying when enjoying the food later. (Be sure of using low heat and be patient. Over-fried peppercorns bring a bitter taste.) Now add garlic, ginger and dried chili until fragrant. Then add HALF of the leek sections in for a minute.fry peanutspeppercorns
  4. Now turn to HIGH heat and quickly place all the chicken cubes in the wok and stir fry for 1-2 minute.fry chicken
  5. Stir in the seasoning sauce. Mix well with rest of the ingredients until the sauce is well coated. Add the cooked peanuts and remaining HALF of leek white sections. This process should take about less than 1 minute. You will need to move fast to avoid the chicken being overcooked.add seasoning sauce
  6. Transfer out on a plate and serve with rice.

Tips

  1. Cooking the sliced leek allows you enjoying the deep fragrance as well as the crunchiness and sweetness of the leek produced by different stages of the cooking.

Szechuan Dry-Fried Green Beans 干煸四季豆 gān biān sì jì dòu

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 Szechuan dry-fried green beans, you need pick good-quality French beans with a tender and crispy texture. Pork can be replaced with minced shiitake mushroom as a vegetarian alternative.

coverServes 3-4,

  •  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      caster sugar白糖
  • ¼ teaspoon      salt
  • 1 tablespoon    Szechuan 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       Szechuan peppercorns花椒
  • 3-5 dried           dried red chili, roughly chopped 干辣椒

Minced pork and marinate (discard this portion if you are vegetarian.)

  • 25g                     minced pork猪肉末
  • 1 teaspoon        corn flour生粉
  • ½ tablespoon    light soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon        salt
  • ½ tablespoon    minced gingeringredients

Method

  1. Marinate minced pork with all the seasonings in a small bowl for around 15 minutes just before cooking. Prepare the green beans and drain with paper.
  2. 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.beans deep fry
  3. Scoop 1 tablespoon of cooking oil from the pot and place in a wok. Be carefully during the process as the oil is extremely hot. Add minced pork in the wok and fry until for 1 minute until aroma and then add ginger, garlic, Szechuan pepper, ginger, Ya Cai (if you happen to have some in kitchen) and dried red chili. Fry for another 1 to 2 minute. Return green beans along with salt, sugar and light soy sauce. Fry until everything is well combined. Serve hot!fry beans

 Tips

  1. Ya Cai 芽菜is a pickled vegetable and quite salty. Remember to reduce salt accordingly.

 

Szechuan Wontons in Chili Oil红油抄手

The classic Szechuan snack is my favorite wontons. It is perfect for a breakfast, lunch or dinner. These slippery suckers are lip smacking. Wear a bib or take your white shirt off for these while you are shoveling these into your mouth.

There are perhaps a dozen of ways to wrap the fillings – but I care for the “Lucky Yuan Bao” 元宝 fold (like Tortellini.). The Italians perhaps got the fold from the Chinese. Now we are borrowing back their stuffed-noodle fold.

Yields 45 wontons,

Wrappers

I think you can buy the wonton wrappers from any Asia markets in the US. In Singapore, they are available at NYUC or Cold Storage. One package comes with either 50 or 100 wrappers.

Make fillings

  • 250g           ground pork
  • 125g           minced shrimp (shrimp needs to be peeled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon    salt
  • 1 teaspoon      corn flour 生粉
  • 1 tablespoon    light soy sauce 生抽

Make the sauce

Method

  1. Peel and minced the shrimp.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground pork, minced shrimp, salt, corn flour and light soy sauce and mix well.
  3. Now let’s wrap – the Italians may get the tortellini fold from the Chinese. Now we’re borrowing back their stuffed-noodle fold. So just take out one wrapper, add a half tablespoon of fillings. Fold it into half size from the middle, press the two sides of the wrapper together to seal.
  4. Dab a little water on the two corners, then fold one side toward the center. Fold the other side to the center.
  5. Press the two ends together to seal. The filled center will plump up like a belly with the edges framing it like a golden ingot (lucky Yuan Bao,元宝).
  6. Bring a pot of water to boil, add in 6-8 wontons and cook for 5 minutes till they float on the water.
  7. In the meantime, prepare a serving bowl, combine a tablespoon of chili oil, 1/2 teaspoons of minced spring onion, garlic and roasted peanuts with a tablespoon of boiled water from the pot. Mix well.
  8. Drain the wonton and add them in the bowl. Gently toss till the wontons are well-coated.

Tips:

  1. If you are serving these to guests with different levels of heat tolerance, pass the chili oil at the table instead. That way, everyone can get the dose they want.

Sichuan Chili Oil 红油

 

I happily found that all my friends, regardless of eastern or western  background, all enjoy this garlicky and numbingly spicy chili oil.

This homemade chili oil is amazing on top of noodles, rice or anything else that you want to kick up a notch. It is essential for making Poached Chicken in Szechuan Chili Oil口水鸡

Yields one and half cups,

  • 12g   dried red chili,  roughly chopped干辣椒
  • 2-3 teaspoon   Sichuan peppercorns 花椒, quantities variable depending on the level of your tolerance for the numbingly chili oil (I would go 3 tsp for sure)
  • 3 teaspoon     white sesame seeds白芝麻
  • 1/2 teaspoon   salt
  • 8g    garlic, roughly chopped蒜末
  • 2       spring onions, sliced into small pieces青葱
  • 8g     ginger, thinly sliced 姜丝
  • 1 cup     vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon    fermented Sichuan soy bean paste 豆瓣酱

Method

  1. Mix dried chili, Szechuan peppercorns, white sesame seeds and salt in a bowl
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan in medium heat
  3. Add ginger, garlic and spring onion into the oil and fry the ingredients for about 5 minutes in low heat
  4. Add fermented Sichuan soy bean paste into the oil and fry for 1 minutes
  5. Turn off the heat and let the oil to cool down for 1 minutes
  6. Drain the cooked oil by leaving the garlic in the oil
  7. Pour the cooked oil in the bowl (indicated in the step 1)
  8. Mix the ingredients well
  9. Done

Tips

  1. The amount of dried chili is variable. Spiciness of the oil depends on the quantity of Sichuan peppercorns you add in.
  2. The chili oil can be stored in fridge for up to a week.