Growing up in mainly Cantonese immigrant San Francisco, our exposure to northern Chinese cuisine was to say the least limited. Sure, many more Szechuan and Xi'an restaurants have popped up on Taraval street, in the longtime Asian enclave of the Sunset district and also the ever-changing tourist landscape and hipster-fication of Chinatown.
Our first true experience of discovering and regularly eating Szechuan and Xi'an cuisine was in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Anthony Bourdain recommended joints like Xi'an Famous Foods, popular for their chewy hand-pulled noodles. We also found our own hidden gem while walking the mean baby-stroller streets of Park Slope. Finding Tofu on 7th inspired our new found fascination for spicy-hot, tongue-numbing flavors that were painfully addicting.
Being car-centric Californian's, living in New York, who rarely ordered delivery, we caved into getting steaming hot food delivered right to our doorstep with a press of a button. We didn't even need to be home, we would usually order online while riding the swaying homebound F train. As we got off the subway, we hurried our way to our apartment to try and beat the delivery man before he could ring our doorbell.
The one dish, we truly miss is a heavenly dry-pot style fish that combined all the beautiful things about Szechuan cuisine. It's a perfect balance of spice, tongue-numbing, crunch, and softness. Today, we try to recreate the same flavors to bring us back to memories of the excitement we felt when hearing the knock on our door in our quaint apartment in Brooklyn.
- 1 pack of soft tofu (our preference) sliced in 1/2 inch piece horizontally
- 1/2 cup of cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon mushroom seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup of canola oil for pan frying
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper corns
- 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced (2 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced
- 1/3 cup celery stalk sliced (1/8 inch pieces)
- 2 stalks of scallions sliced (1/8 inch)
- 1 tablespoon soybean paste (red type)
- 1 teaspoon sriracha (more or less depending on spice level)
- 1/8 teaspoon mushroom seasoning
- 2 drops of sesame oil
- 1/2 cup of water
- Mix cornstarch, mushroom seasoning, salt, pepper, and paprika in a bowl.
- Drain tofu and pat dry.
- Dip the tofu into the cornstarch mix and coat all sides.
- Fry tofu in a pan with oil on medium heat.
- Flip when one side until crispy and when both sides are done set aside.
- In a pan, sauté Szechuan pepper corns and red pepper flakes in 3 tablespoons of oil on medium heat until a deeper red color, then set aside.
- In the same pan, sauté soybean paste, Sriracha, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, celery, scallions, mushroom seasoning. ground cinnamon and sugar.
- Add water and let simmer until sauce is more concentrated.
- Add sautéed Szechuan pepper corns and red pepper flakes.
- Pour the sauce onto tofu.