Spicy Szechuan Eggplant with Tofu

by Sala @ Veggie Belly on April 7, 2011

I am on a mission to make myself like eggplant. Many of you on twitter and facebook helped me with your amazing eggplant recipe suggestions to make me like it! I am now trying every method possible (except deep frying!) – grilled eggplant, sautéed eggplant, baked eggplant, stir fried eggplant..and I’m pleased to inform you, I loved the eggplant in this vegan Chinese Szechuan eggplant and tofu recipe!

My dear friend and incredibly talented food blogger, Xiaolu of 6bittersweets blog took me on a tour of a local Chinese grocery store. She showed me some amazing and exotic ingredients that I can’t wait to try! I picked up the chili bean sauce, black vinegar, and Szechuan pepper used in this recipe during my Chinese grocery store visit.

The basic idea for this dish comes from Fuchsia Dunlops  book ‘Land of Plenty’. And because Xiaolu has such a passion for food (you DO read her blog don’t you?!), I consulted with her to perfect this vegan Chinese eggplant and tofu recipe.

This recipe does take a bit of time to make, but it is so worth the effort. It tastes like something you’d get at a Szechuan restaurant.You can easily use any combination of vegetables you like for this dish – broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, or zucchini along with seitan, tempeh or paneer.

Short cuts and substitutions

Instead of pressing and then pan frying your own tofu, buy pre-baked or pre fried tofu in the grocery store
Use store bought paneer cubes instead of the tofu, and lightly pan fry them
Use balsamic vinegar instead of the Chinese black vinegar (it doesn’t taste the same, but it’s the closest substitute for Chinese black vinegar I can think of)
Use regular black pepper corns instead of Szechuan peppercorns

To salt or not to salt an eggplant before cooking? See this post.

 

More delicious vegetarian and vegan Szechuan Chinese eggplant and tofu recipes

Vegetarian Szechuan eggplant recipe on Weird Combinations
Vegan Szechuan eggplant recipe with beansprouts on No Meat Zone Recipes
Szechuan tofu stri fry recipe  on Eating Well
Szechuan garlic eggplant and tofu recipe on Hypokrtical

I molded the rice using this cute rice mold I got as a gift.

Szechuan Tofu and Eggplant Recipe

adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty
serves about 3 with rice

For the tofu
One 14 oz pack of extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, optional

For the eggplant
1 lb purple or Asian eggplant, cut into ¾ inch cubes
1 tablespoon oil

For the szechuan sauce
1 tablespoon Soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns lightly roasted in a dry skillet, and then crushed in a mortar and pestle. Substitute with regular black peppercorns. Use less if you dont want it spicy.
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar. Substitute with cider vinegar or balsamic
1/2 cup water

½ tablespoon oil
1-3 tablespoon black bean chili sauce (this sauce is very spicy! Start with 1 tablespoon, taste and add more at the end of cooking if needed) update: I used “guizhou black bean chili sauce”, the brand is Lee Kum Kee. Whatever brand you buy, make sure the ingredients include fermented black beans and chili peppers.

2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
5 scallions/green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoon sesame oil, optional

press the tofu
Drain the tofu and pat it dry. Place several layers of paper towels on a table. Place the drained tofu in the middle of the paper towels. Wrap the towels firmly, but without breaking the tofu, around the tofu block (like a gift wrap). Wrap this in an absorbent kitchen towel. Place a plate over the tofu parcel. Put something heavy (like a few cans of beans) on top of the plate. Let the tofu sit with the weights on top for about 4 hours (longer won’t hurt).

cook the eggplant
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil. Add the eggplant cubes in a single layer, without crowding. Fry the eggplant cubes on high heat till they are golden, about 3 minutes for american purple eggplants. The eggplant doesnt have to be fully cooked, just browned on the outside. Flip the eggplant pieces and brown the other side. Make sure the eggplant cubes are in a single layer, so they brown quickly. Don’t over-crowd the pan. Do this in batches if needed.

Set the eggplant aside on a plate.

make the tofu
Cut the compressed tofu into ¾ inch cubes

Wipe the skillet clean. Turn heat to medium. Arrange the tofu cubes in a single layer on the skillet. I don’t use oil for the tofu, but you can use 1 tablespoon of oil if you like. Cook tofu on medium heat. Don’t move around or disturb the tofu cubes while cooking. When brown on one side (about 12 minutes), flip the tofu cubes and brown the other side. When the tofu is light brown on all sides, remove it and place it in a plate.

(If you don’t want to pan fry the tofu, toss pressed tofu it in ½ tablespoon oil, spread the tofu cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake it in a 375f oven for about 40 minutes or till the tofu is golden, and slightly chewy).

make the Szechuan sauce
In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, Szechuan pepper, vinegar and water. Keep the bowl at hands reach.

Heat a large wok with oil on high heat. Carefully add the chili bean sauce, ginger and garlic, and stir for 30 seconds. The chili bean sauce may give out fumes, so stand back. Take care not to burn it.

Remove the wok from heat. Extend your arm with the wok, so that nothing splashes on you. Now carefully pour in the whisked ingredients.

Return wok to the stove. Immediately add the scallions/green onions, eggplant, tofu, and 1/2 cup water. Toss gently and cook on high for 5 minutes or till the eggplant has softened but is not mushy. Add more water if the dish is too dry. Taste the dish and add more chili bean sauce if you like.

Drizzle sesame oil, if using.

Serve with steamed rice or wheat tortillas and extra soy sauce and chili bean sauce on the side

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Comments

comments

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets April 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Aw it was my pleasure to spend the afternoon with you! Thanks for the shout-out and link love. This came out amazing. Not just the flavors either. Really loving the light and how you molded the rice. Want me to bring Land of Plenty to our next meet-up? In addition to the DH mags hehe.

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2 Leinana April 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

This looks delicious! I’m already a fan, but my husband doesn’t like eggplant. I think I’m going to make this and convert him!

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3 Laavanya April 7, 2011 at 5:32 pm

That looks amazing … stunning pictures as always and so very inviting.

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4 anh@anhsfoodblog.com April 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm

wonderful dish! I like it, a lot – this combo is really wonderful. if you can get perilla leaves, sprinkle some fresh one just before eating will be awesome, too! :)

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

what do perilla leaves taste like anh?

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5 pavithra April 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I always love the Tofu and Eggplant combo, looks so tempting and that black bean sauce is my very fav ..I add it in stir fries.. As always your pictures are class :)

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6 Kankana April 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

The only dish where i enjoyed tofu is mafu tofu ( i hope the spelling is correct) This is looking amazing and worth to give a try. The only two way i have ever tried eggplant is to roast them and make ‘baigan bharta’ or to deep fry them with ‘besan coated’ i am loving how light this dish sounds. :)

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7 Dawn (KitchenTravels) April 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Since I already love tofu and egglplant, I’m sure I would love combining them in this recipe! Beautiful photos, and that rice mold is the cutest!

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8 Anu April 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

hey Sala…
the only dish i really enjoy at panda express is eggplant tofu. Recently when roomie n i went to vegas and stopped at PE for dinner we found that they didnt have it at their store! your recipe sounds delish!
n the rice mould is sooooper cute!

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9 Melissa April 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I looooove Szechuan eggplant! Oh I think you might just love nasu dengaku, which is a traditional Japanese dish of eggplant glazed with miso!

Here’s the recipe – http://goo.gl/vyRQ8

Give it a shot and let me know if you fall for eggplant too! ^ _ ^

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

thanks for the link! that miso eggplant looks great, and im going to make!

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NeenaJ Reply:

Thanks for sharing that link! I made the miso eggplant last night (roasting in my toaster oven) and it was delicious!

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Melissa Reply:

Glad to hear! ^ _ ^ It’s one of my favourite recipes for eggplants too – and it’s relatively simple!

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10 Sharmilee April 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Eggplant with tofu is a nice combination…looks very tempting and beautiful captures

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11 Niv Mani April 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm

One of my all time favorite eggplant dishes.. (this was the dish that converted me into an eggplanthead.. This & an eggplant eggplant obsessed room-mate), Thanks for the pointers to the rice mold!

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12 Soma April 7, 2011 at 10:58 pm

yaaay! for u liking eggplant. This sounds like an amazing recipe. Love all the flavors much. at a glance the pic, made me think of the chili paneer:-)

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13 Pepy @Indonesia Eats April 7, 2011 at 11:48 pm

This is one of my fave eggplant dishes, beside eggplant balado.

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14 Indu April 8, 2011 at 1:04 am

Honestly, I am not a huge fan of tofu or eggplant, but this sure looks good. Would love to dig in.

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15 Rajani@eatwritethink April 8, 2011 at 1:27 am

eggplants and tofu are both my favourite ingredients, make a form of eggplant every week!!! thanks for such a great recipe… and the rice mold thingy is cute!

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16 Ajit April 8, 2011 at 2:53 am

Wow, Sala. This is an amazing recipe. I picked up a whole bag of Szechuan peppercorns from Hong Kong last month. I definitely need to make this dish. Your blog is Impressive, very impressive!!

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17 Magnus April 8, 2011 at 4:32 am

Hi there my fellow Wolfson economist food lover!

My favourite aubergine (I refuse to call them eggplants) recipe is this one from Madhur Jaffrey:
http://www.nibblous.com/recipe/183
I’m also a big fan of melanzane parmigiana.

Btw – chili bean sauce works very well as a stock cube substitute for quick noodle soups etc.

Magnus

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

Ok, for you they are aubergines :) and they we terrible at Wolfson :)

LOVE the idea of using chili bean sauce in noodle soups! Im and going to do that next time!

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18 notyet100 April 8, 2011 at 4:33 am

platter looks inviting,..

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19 Nishi April 8, 2011 at 8:03 am

Lovely recipe and awesome clicks. Just loved the rice mold

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20 Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen April 8, 2011 at 9:16 am

I love the molded rice, it’s such an elegant presentation. I’m glad you’ve been inspired to try new eggplant dishes, I feel like sometimes I get into a rut making the same things with it. I could use a little inspiration myself.

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21 Ami April 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I just luv eggplant, your recipe here looks so appetizing. I’m gonna try this one…. here’s my favorite eggplant recipe. You might like it….it’s Sri Lankan flavor

http://amisvegetariandelicacies.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-favorite-fried-eggplant-recipe.html

http://amisvegetariandelicacies.blogspot.com/2010/08/eggplant-curry.html

Pls do visit my blog, and leave your expert view…. I’m a big fan of ur blog, such a wonderful page

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22 Joyti April 9, 2011 at 2:29 am

Oo, this looks very good (the photograph is amazing)…and even though I’m not a fan of tofu, I could enjoy this…it looks delicious.

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

you could make this with paneer if dont like tofu – like a indo-chinese type szechuan eggplant and paneer!

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23 Gyrofrog April 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

One thing you didn’t mention is draining the eggplant. I’ve cooked with eggplant, with varying success: sometimes it is extremely bitter. I read somewhere that this has to do with finding a male fruit vs. a female fruit, as the latter has a lot of seeds which are bitter. I’m not sure this is true. But what I did try is slicing the eggplant (which had plenty of seeds), salting it, and then pressing it in a colander – kind of like how you dried out the tofu, but with salt. Then rinse the salt off and use the sliced eggplant. I made a moussaka (sp?) this way and it turned out fine. Anyway, this looks delicious and I am eager to try it out!

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

you can salt and drain the eggplant if you like. I was cooking the eggplant in this recipe on high heat, and the eggplant was tender, so I didnt find the need to salt and drain it.

here is some info and when to salt and when not to salt an eggplant.

http://www.veggiebelly.com/2010/07/balsamic-grilled-summer-vegetables-with-basil-quinoa-salad.html

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24 Joanna goes vegan April 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I like that your egglant with tofu is spicy. I will definitely prepare it on my own, of course using some suggested shortcuts so that I can save some time :-)

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25 Yi @ Yi Reservation April 10, 2011 at 6:51 am

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I am really happy to see the chilli bean paste and Sichuan peppercorn showing up on the recipes nowadays. I just makes me proud to be a Sichuanese :)

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26 marla April 10, 2011 at 6:51 am

I have to tell you that I am not usually a fan of eggplant either. The only way I enjoy it is in Baingan Bharta which I have not had in years. Your eggplant looks like something I would like as well. Love that donut shaped molded rice.

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27 Devika April 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

loved the tour of szeuchuan cooking! have always wondered what the key ingredients are. can’t wait to try this dish.

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28 Anusha April 11, 2011 at 4:29 am

Lovely recipe … skipped the chill bean sauce and replaced eggplant with okra and tasted good!

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29 Cassie April 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

Szechuan peppercorns are one of my favorite seasonings. I have them in a grinder and I’ll sprinkle it on anything where I’d normally use black pepper.

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

I love that you have szecuan peppercorns on a grinder!

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30 amee April 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I too have hated eggplant since I was 4. I remember sitting at the dining table in agony having to clean my plate of gross indian eggplant. I was 4! Is there no mercy for a cute little indian girl? So i’m not sure if it’s the same reason, but I think I hated it b/c I was 1st introduced to it in gujarati cuisine and the way gujus make eggplant is to make it as “one amorphous blob on a plate”. So here is my link on “How to Love Eggplant” only b/c i can relate… these are the dishes that allowed me to become friends with eggplant…and now I can say we actually have a steady healthy relationship. :) http://rabbitfoodrocks.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-to-love-eggplant.html

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31 Alisa April 13, 2011 at 12:35 am

Looks delicious. I went to stock up to an Asian grocery store. It’s amidst Korea-town but has a variety of products, but I couldn’t find the black bean chili paste. I mean there were sooo many things that looked like they could be eat but the English translations didn’t say bean chili paste. Suggestions on brands/names? I got a “Dynasty” brand Szechwan Chili Sauce. I’m guessing that would work since it’s spicy as well?

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

you want the szechuan chili bean sauce/paste, because the fermented beans in it give it great flavor.

the ingredients must include fermented black beans and chili peppers.

open the bottle you have, and see if it looks like the sauce in the little white bowl in my pictures. if its a black paste or black beans in a red oil, its the right one :)

my bottle says “guizhou black bean chili sauce”, the brand is Lee Kum Kee.

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Alisa Reply:

Thanks Sala! Now I know what to look for. :) My sauce doesn’t have the beans in it but I’ll still use it knowing the flavor won’t be the same. But I’ll definitely get the one you recommend for the right flavor. I still love eggplant and tofu combo. Appreciate the quick reply.

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

i updated the recipe with the chili bean sauce info.

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32 Cucee Sprouts May 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm

What a pretty photo. I will try your recipe this week. I will pair it with an Arugula salad http://cuceesprouts.com/2011/05/blueberry-surprise-salad/, a recipe that I posted on my blog recently. The two will go really well together

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33 Elisabetta Pendola December 12, 2011 at 9:21 am

must be d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! thanks for sharing by your italian veggie-belly :)

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34 Hogger & Co. August 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

Damn, mouth-watering, this is.

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