Archives for posts with tag: Sichuan

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet (except to say this post is for you, Patri!). The proof is in the pictures, after all. It’s closing in on 2 a.m. here and I am so wishing I had some of this dish leftover to eat right now. Eat at 2 a.m.?! Who does that! Oh, um, me. I’m not afraid to eat at this hour, oh no. A muffin held off most of my hunger but what I really wanted was Ma-Po Tofu.

Bits of beef and soft pieces of tofu have simmered in a salty, spicy red sauce that absolutely screams EAT ME!! And so we did. And it was good. I’m not sure what originally drew me to this recipe — probably the promise of a spicy kick on a cold night — but I’m so glad I made the effort.

Not that it takes much effort to make it. This recipe moves quickly, once you have everything chopped and combined in various bowls. Plate it over a bowl of hot rice and let the flavors scream in your ear (and mouth), too.

Ma-Po Tofu
slightly adapted from Epicurious
serves 4

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (I used regular, freshly-cracked pepper)
1 1/2 pounds soft (not silken) tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons Szechuan chili sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black-bean paste
4 Tbsp Hoisin sauce, split
2 Tbsp Asian chili powder (I used 3/4 Tbsp red pepper flakes)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup peanut oil
8 ounces ground beef
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), washed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup rice wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Hot rice

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add tofu, remove from heat, and steep (uncovered) for five minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine chili sauce, black bean paste, 2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

In another small bowl, combine cornstarch and 3 Tbsp water. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium high heat, then add peanut oil until hot. Add beef, ginger, garlic, scallions and leeks, cooking until meat is fully browned (roughly 3-4 minutes). Add rice wine, cook until mostly evaporated (roughly 1-2 minutes). Add hot bean paste mixture and cook until mixture is incorporated (roughly 1 minute).

Add tofu, broth, soy sauce and remaining 2 Tbsp of Hoisin sauce and bring to a boil. Whisk cornstarch if it has begun to separate, and add to pan. Cook for roughly one minute, or until mixture thickens slightly.

Serve over hot rice, garnishing with chopped cilantro. Enjoy with unabashed ardor.


I love eggplant. Stuffed, layered, sautéed — you name it, I’ll eat it. Except raw. That was one eggplant (Parmesan) disaster from my early years that I hope to never repeat. Using Asian eggplant in a recipe was a first for me and — yum — it won’t be my last. They’re a slender, milder variety of eggplant without as many seeds.

This recipe has been staring me down (literally, from my cookbook stand) every day since… forever. I would walk by and drool at the closeup photo of the seared, browned eggplant and bits of ground pork, all soaking up what seemed to be a spectacular-sounding sauce. Then I finally made it and it met every single one of my expectations from days of staring at the recipe.

And the sauce. I cannot describe to you how great this sauce is so I’ll settle with pleading that you find the chile bean paste (in the Asian section of any regular grocery store) and not omit it from the recipe. Feel free to bump up the sauce (I did) from the measurements below.

So go. Go and make this. Unless you hate eggplant, then I’ll settle with crying for the loss in your life.

Sichuan-Style Braised Eggplant
minimally adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cookbook
serves 4-6

1 1/2 lb Asian eggplants
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp canola or peanut oil, or as needed
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp chile bean paste (also called “hot bean paste” or “Sichuan chile sauce”)
1 tbsp black vinegar (I used balsamic)
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch (add a little water to make a slurry)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
1 tsp grated fresh or prepared horseradish
1/2 lb ground pork
2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
hot rice

Cut each eggplant on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Place eggplant pieces in large bowl, add cold water to submerge and stir in salt. Weight the eggplants with a plate and keep them submerged for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat 2 tbsp of canola oil in a wok or large saute pan over high heat until very hot. Working in batches, add eggplant to cover bottom of pan in a single layer and saute until crisp and brown on all sides (roughly 7-10 minutes). Remove pieces using slotted spoon and transfer to another bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more oil if necessary. Set pan aside but do not rinse.

In another bowl, make sauce by stirring together stock, chile bean paste, vinegar, soy sauce, tomato paste, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

Return pan to high heat, add 1 tbsp oil, stir in garlic, ginger, celery and horseradish. Saute until golden brown (roughly 2 minutes). Stir in pork and stir-fry until meat turns opaque (roughly 5-7 minutes).

Add sauce to pan and bring to a boil. Stir in eggplant, reduce heat to low, cover, and braise eggplant until tender, (roughly 7-10 minutes). Uncover and simmer for a few minutes to thicken sauce. Place eggplant and sauce over hot rice and garnish with green onions. Feel free to smack your lips when devouring this dish.