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Sichuan Tofu & Mushrooms

Asian food is my favorite food. From the basic Americanized and overly sweet Chinese take-out joints that you can find in any city to the high end Omakase Japanese restaurants I’ve been to in NYC and all of the Korean bulgogi, Pad Thai, and Vietnamese Pho joints in between. I cannot get enough of Asian food and my fridge and pantry attest to that. Until recently though I’ve been a bit wary of the Sichuan peppercorn. If you’re not familiar with it, first of all it is not a peppercorn and it is not spicy. It’s actually an unrelated flower bud that grows in the Sichuan province of China. It’s unique to me and unlike anything I’ve ever had before or since. At first, I really just didn’t think I liked it. The main reason is that it numbs your tongue and makes it tingle a little bit and that’s just not a sensation we in the west are really used to or ready for.

This recipe goes light on the Sichuan peppercorns because I don’t want anyone to be introduced the way I was. It was startling, overwhelming and off putting to get a mouthful of whole peppers so this recipe grinds them and only has a few to give you a gentle introduction. Feel free to add more, over time you’ll find you even want more. 10 seems like so few to me now and I could probably grind 50 into my version of this and be very, very happy. The rest of this dish is super simple. Feel free to play around with the vegetables, adding more or less of each one while keeping the final amount roughly the same. If you don’t like tofu feel free to swap it for your protein of choice, thinly sliced chicken, pork or beef will work equally well. Skip the egg dredge and just toss the meat in a hot oiled wok till just cooked through.

Ingredients

1 block tofu cut in half and then 1cm slices
5 large shiitake mushrooms sliced thick
1 red pepper sliced
3 scallions greens roughly chopped, whites finely sliced
1/2tbsp oyster sauce
1tbsp light soy sauce
1/4tsp salt
1/2tsp white pepper
2tbs warm water
1 eggs
1tbsp peanut oil
10 sichuan peppercorns coarsely ground
1tbsp soybean paste
1/2tbsp cornstarch mixed into 2/3 cup water

Instructions:

Blanch tofu in boiling salted water for 2 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  In the same pot of water blanch mushrooms for 3 minutes.

Mix oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper and water in a bowl and set aside.

Beat two eggs and pour over tofu and gently mix to coat.

Add peanut oil to wok over medium high heat.  Add tofu in batches, do not crowd and leave undisturbed until lightly golden on the bottom.  Then flip and cook again till golden.  Lightly stir till all egg is cooked through. Remove and set aside. Repeat till all tofu is cooked.

In wok add more oil, stir in sichuan peppercorns and stir till lightly fragrant. Add scallion whites. Cook till scallions begin to sizzle.  Add soybean paste and stir for 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms, red peppers, sauce and tofu.  Bring to a boil, but don’t let it sit too long you don’t want to overcook the veggies.  Add cornstarch slurry till you have enough sauce and and then the scallion greens.  Stir till thickened and serve over white rice.

Download the recipe here