Braised Tofu Szechwan Style

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1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
5 tablespoons chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon chili paste with garlic
3 tablespoons light oil plus additional as necessary
1 pound firm chinese-style tofu, well pressed, cut into strips about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide
1 small eggplant (about 3/4 pound), cut into strips about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide 1/2 pound mushrooms (button or mixed variety), sliced
1/2 pound green beans (about 2 cups), cut in 1 1/2 inch lengths
cooked brown or basmati rice

In a small bowl, blend together the 3 tablespoons water, tamari, rice wine or sherry, and the chili paste until smooth. Set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the bean curd and stir-fry until golden brown. (Do this in two batches if all the tofu doesn't fit in one batch; add additional oil as needed.) Use a slotted spatula to lift and and drain the tofu, removing it to a plate; set aside.

Add another tablespoonful or so of oil to the skillet if there isn't any left. Raise the heat to high. Add the eggplant, and stir-fry for 4 minutes. Do not add more oil; stir-fry constantly so it doesn't burn.

Add the mushrooms and green beans and stir-fry for 3 minutes, adding a teaspoonful of oil if it's too dry. Lower the heat to medium-high, then pour in the 1/4 cup of water . Cover and cook for about five minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the tofu, being careful not to break it up. Give the chili paste mixture a stir or two if it has separated, then pour this mixture over the tofu. Toss until well coated, then stir-fry for about 3 more minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve over rice.

Variation: Replace the cooking water with brewed tea at normal strength. Try a plain black tea or a Russian Caravan, which will impart a slightly smoky flavor and aroma.


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