We whip out the wok and visit China for delicious inspiration for this spicy dish, ideal for serving as part of a banquet. The eggplant is great with asparagus added. I also like to steam cubes of silken tofu, place them in the bottom of the serving bowl, then add the sauce.
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
50g plain flour
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp peanut oil, plus extra
2 small Asian eggplants, sliced thick
400g firm tofu, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red capsicum, diced
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh chicken stock*
2 tsp Chinese light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
2 long green shallots, finely sliced
1 small handful coriander leaves
jasmine rice, to serve
*Note: For a vegetarian version, swap chicken stock for vegetable stock, and omit the oyster sauce.
Dry roast the Sichuan peppercorns in a hot wok for 20 seconds, then lower heat and stir for about a minute until their fragrance is released. Crush in a mortar with a pestle. Mix with the flour and season with a pinch of salt. Set aside. Crush the black peppercorns and reserve separately.
Heat plenty of oil in the wok on high. When just beginning to smoke, add the eggplant and shallow-fry until golden brown, then drain on paper towel. Toss the tofu in the flour mixture and fry until golden all over, with a thin crust. Reserve and clean out the wok.
Add 1 tbsp oil to the wok. When just smoking, add onion, capsicum, chilli, garlic and crushed black pepper and stir-fry until fragrant. Add stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce and caster sugar and reduce slightly. Check seasoning, then add the tofu and eggplant to the sauce. Warm through.
Garnish with shallots and coriander and serve with jasmine rice.
Serve with Neil Perry's duck sang choi bao as part of a banquet.