Often described as the dish that converts people into tofu eaters, this Sichuan dish is deliciously spiced with intense savoury flavours. Heat comes from chillies and the fermented soybean paste. A lip tingling sensation comes from the numbing Sichuan peppercorns. Aromatic savoury flavours come from fermented black beans.
This dish originated in Chengdu, in the heart of the Sichuan province where it is traditionally cooked with a little minced beef or pork. However, leaving the meat out for a vegetarian dish still creates an outstanding meal. Recently I’ve switched out the traditional fermented soybean paste for ‘fermented soybean mushroom paste’, and it adds yet another savoury dimension that is well worth a try.
You really need Sichuan peppercorns and there is no substitute. However, all Sichuan peppercorns are not equal. They lose their freshness and numbing tingling quality over time. If you can, buy them whole from a Chinese supermarket with high turnover or from a reputable online retailer.
Fermented black beans
These aren’t the same as the black turtle beans we get here. They are actually soybeans that are fermented. I am always left with more than I need for this recipe and I hate food waste! This homemade black bean sauce is perfect way of using up leftovers: stir fried vegetables with home made black bean sauce
When choosing tofu, go for a firm or extra firm type. It just holds together a little better when cooking.
- 500 g tofu
- 2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp crushed garlic
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 bunch spring onions
- 3 tbsp Sichuan fermented soybean mushroom paste or simply fermented soybean paste
- 1 tbsp fermented black beans roughly chopped
- 2 tsp chili flakes
- 100 ml stock
- 1 tbsp cornflour mixed in 2 tbsp of water
- This dish is so quick to make its good to have everything prepared and ready to go. Crush, grate, chop everything you need to before you heat the oil.
- Bring a pan of salted water to boil.
- Heat half the Sichuan peppercorns in a dry pan until fragent and then grind with a pestle and morter until powdered.
- Heat the oil on a high heat. Add the rest of the peppercorns to flavour the oil. Once fragrant collect them and disgard them.
- Add the garlic and ginger and heat for 2 minutes. Add the chopped spring onion and cook for a further minute before adding the chili flakes, mushroom bean paste and roughly chopped fermented black beans. After stiring for 30 seconds, add stock, mix well and bring to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, heat the tofu for one minute in the pan of boiling water.
- Stir in the the cornflour to the sauce and heat until it thickens and then stir in the drained tofu until coated.
- Serve immediately with rice and perhaps some steamed greens such as pak choi.