Szechuan Braised Tofu and Vegetables

    This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. The tofu and eggplant absorb the hot, spicy sauce superbly and create a rich, haunting flavor. It is very easy to prepare, made even more so by setting all of the ingredients out in front of you close to the stove at the time of cooking.

    SERVES 4


    1 pound firm tofu, cut into strips ВЅ-inch by 2 inches and patted very dry

    1 small eggplant (Вѕ pound), peeled and cut into strips ВЅ inch by 2 inches

    3 cups (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms

    2 cups (8 ounces) green beans cut into 2-inch lengths

    Вј cup plus 3 tablespoons water

    1 tablespoon chili paste with garlic

    3 tablespoons tamari or other soy sauce

    4ВЅ tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

    1. Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large skillet. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add half of the tofu and stir-fry until lightly golden. Remove to a platter and add a little more oil to the pan if it is dry. Repeat with the remaining tofu.
    2. If there is no oil left in the pan add a little more. Raise the heat to high. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the eggplant. Stir-fry for 4 minutes. It will probably absorb the oil, but do not add any more; just keep tossing.
    3. Add the mushrooms and green beans, and stir-fry for 3 minutes. At this point if the mixture is very dry you can add a tiny bit of oil.
    4. Add Вј cup of the water, cover the wok or skillet, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the beans and eggplant are tender.
    5. Add the tofu and toss.
    6. In a small bowl blend together the chili paste, soy sauce, rice wine, and 3 tablespoons of water. Pour over the tofu mixture and toss until well coated.
    7. Stir-fry 3 minutes more, or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Serve immediately on rice.