Raise your hand if you like Chinese take-out? I love saucy, spicy, and garlicky vegetables over steamed rice. With restaurants closing, I think now is a good time to share my favorite take-out inspired recipe!
At my go-to Chinese restaurant, I always order a dish called “Szechuan Tofu and Eggplant Hot Pot”. It’s my first choice and one of my all-time favorite meals! The eggplant is perfect despite eggplant being finicky to work with and the vegetables are flawlessly sautéed. The highlight of this dish is the flavorful sauce that saturates everything.
Origins: Szechuan Cuisine
Sichuan, Szechuan, or Szechwan? The name Sichuan refers to the Southwestern Chinese province that popularized many dishes. Szechuan and Szechwan are romanized spellings.
Sichuan food stands out because of its use of Sichuan pepper and five-spice powder (fennel, pepper, aniseed, cinnamon, and clove). This style of food is hot and spicy and can have hints of sweetness. I find Sichuan cuisine to have complex flavors that meld together to create umami goodness. Some noteworthy Sichuan dishes include Kung Pao Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, Hot Pots, Dandan Noodles, and Twice-Cooked Pork. Many dishes can be easily made vegan since the cuisine features plenty of tofu and vegetables.
Why I love Szechuan Tofu and Eggplant!
This recipe turns naturally “meh” foods into a drool-worthy and cohesive dish. For me, the sauce is the main feature. The sauce is spicy, garlicky, savory, and peppery. Are you noticing a pattern? Tofu and eggplant aren’t the most exciting ingredients. However, in this dish, the eggplant is soft without being chewy. The tofu is crispy and it soaks up the delicious juices. If tofu and eggplant aren’t “your thing”. A similar meal can be made with tempeh and/or an assortment of your favorite vegetables. You can serve this with noodles, rice, or even quinoa. This recipe is flexible, but please don’t skip the green onions and five-spice powder!
- Eggplants (on the smaller side).
- Green onions.
- Firm or extra firm tofu.
- Broccoli and/or a vegetable mix.
- Five-spice powder.
- Szechuan peppercorns or black peppercorns.
- Low sodium soy sauce.
- Maple syrup or brown sugar.
- Sesame oil or neutral cooking oil.
- Rice wine vinegar.
- Sherry cooking wine.
- Corn starch.
- Minced garlic.
- Sambal oelek.
- Ginger paste.
- Grain of choice.
- Sesame seeds (optional).
- Basic cooking utensils and supplies (skillet, spatula, spoons, saucepan, etc.).
Traditionally, the sauce is made with Chinese cooking wine. I substituted sherry cooking wine because it’s more accessible. Black peppercorns are an option, but it will be less authentic. I’ve made this recipe with black peppercorns and it was still amazing! I used 2 small eggplants, in case you were wondering. The corn starch is for thickening the sauce. In this recipe, the sauce is for stir-frying, but it can also act as a marinade.
When making this dish, I start by pan frying the eggplant, broccoli, and tofu. While these items are browning, I whisk together the sauce. Once the eggplant and tofu are browned, I add the sauce. I simmer until the mixture thickens and the vegetables are tender. I serve this over steamed rice or noodles. Full instructions are listed below. I was inspired by Feasting At Home’s recipe.
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Szechuan Tofu and Eggplant
For the Szechuan Sauce
- 1/4 cup + low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp sherry cooking wine
- 1 tbsp sambal oelek chili paste
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tsp sesame seeds optional
- 2 green onions chopped
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
For the Tofu and Eggplant
- 14 oz block of extra firm tofu
- 2 small eggplants
- 1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced
- 2 cups chopped broccoli or vegetable mix
- 1 tbsp sesame or neutral cooking oil
- Green onions for garnish
- Rice noodles, or your choice of grain
- Fresh herbs optional
- Leftover Szechuan sauce
- Cook preferred grain according to package instructions.
- Drain and press tofu. Cut tofu into triangles. Cube the eggplant or cut it however you like. Place a skillet over medium heat. Chop broccoli and slice onion.
- Sauté sliced onions in sesame oil. Add the tofu and eggplant (and any other vegetables) to the skillet. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. Add more oil as needed.
- Toast the peppercorns in a separate pan over medium heat and then crush. Place all of the sauce ingredients into a bowl. Whisk together the ingredients and add corn starch to thicken the mixture.
- Add sauce to the skillet with the vegetables and tofu. Stir fry until everything is saturated.
- When everything is heated thoroughly, plate the dish. Add garnishes if desired. Serve and enjoy!
I created this recipe before stay at home orders were issued. I apologize if you aren’t able to find these ingredients! Please let me know how this blog can better serve you during this pandemic. Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave recipe suggestions in the comments.
P.S. If you recreate this recipe, please tag me on Instagram @authentically_vegan!