7 November 2011

Two ways with hot and nutty vegetables, Szechuan style

I'm blogging these two together as they are variations on a theme. Like the kindling noodles I cooked earlier this year, and heartily recommend, the selling point here is the combination of rich and oil nuts and/or seeds with chilli and vegetables. Sesame oil is used pretty widely in Chinese cooking for frying and flavouring and I know sesame paste is also utilized. I'm not sure exactly what that looks like but I've used tahini successfully in stir-frys and the like and it's ended up pretty well every time. All you need then is a load of vegetables and the rest of the ingredients take care of themselves - dried noodles or rice from the cupboard, sesame paste, chilli oil / dried chilli / pickled chillis, maybe a few nuts or preserved vegetables to liven things up and you're good to go. All things from the store cupboard. Crack a few eggs into the veg at the end if you're looking for more protein.

watch out for this type of pickled chilli - it's by far my favourite type so far and available in Chinatown - at about £1.50 it's worth stockpiling

pretty hedgehog patterns
  • mixture of peppers OR loads of sliced up aubergines
  • tahini, pickled chillies
  • soy sauce, shaoxing wine
  • garlic
  • mix of peanuts, walnuts and sesame seeds
Toast your seeds and nuts lightly in a pan for a few minutes, keeping an eye on any burning.

Fry your peppers or aubergines with some veg oil. With the aubergines it's of course essential to get them really soft and silky. I did this by putting a bit of water in with them and adding a lid - this ends up half steaming and half frying them. Do what ever works for you.

When the veg has started to cook down add a couple of teaspoons of tahini, a few shakes of soy sauce and your choice of chilli heat. Taste and adjust. Chuck in some other vegetables if you fancy - shredded cabbage went very well with the peppers, giving a textural foil and preventing monotony.

When the veg seems nearly cooked add your toasted nuts and again taste and tweak the seasoning as you see fit. Serve with noodles or flat bread if feeling lazy.

To compliment the sesame paste strategically deploy some sesame oil too.

Hot-and-nutty is up there combo wise with the holy mix of Szechuan food - the hot-and-numbing mala. I'm sure there must be a proper Chinese name for it if anyone knows..? Regardless, from satay, to West African peanut soups to Chinese sesame kindling noodles it's doing it for me big time.


  1. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who uses tahini in Szechuan cooking ;) It works so well. I like to do something similar with green beans. Nice simple recipes, perfect weeknight supper.

  2. Yeah it's great isn't it! Great weekday thing like you say - takes all of twenty minutes.

  3. I love the idea of that nutty aubergine sauce. I'd never have thought to use tahini in a Chinese dish but looking forward to trying it.

  4. gosh i really like the look of that! it looks so meaty! i used to be really addicted to tahini but have finally weaned myself off it, haha i still have half a dozen jars sitting around though. so this is great. also, growing up in a chinese houshold, though tahini wasn't common, roasted sesame seeds is, and i can see how this flavour is brought out by the tahini! yum.

  5. Cheers guys, yes it is an easy short-cut to getting the sesame taste - with a few chillies of some sort in the mix it's the biz.