Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for dry-fried beans with minced tofu

When I had my first blistered and wrinkly Sichuanese dry-fried beans, I ate them like McDonald’s fries. They were salty, soft and crunchy, which in my book are all bywords for addictive. Traditionally, the beans would have been dry-roasted, but these days, in most restaurants at least, they’re deep-fried and served with pork. In my version, I’ve fried them hot and hard in a little oil and served them over a soft mound of tofu seasoned with some of the finest ingredients from the Sichuanese pantry.

Dry-fried beans with minced tofu
You’ll need a wide pan with a lid, a food processor, and a pestle and mortar (or something heavy for bashing the peppercorns with).

Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
280g tofu, pressed – I like Tofoo
250g shiitake mushrooms
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
400g green beans, trimmed
2cm ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
4 red chillies (optional)
3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
3 tbsp light soy sauce
Boiled or steamed jasmine rice, to serve

First, roughly bash the peppercorns to a rough powder and put to one side. In a food processor, blitz the tofu and mushrooms until they’re broken down into lentil-sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat and, once hot, carefully add the beans, keeping them as much as possible in a single layer, so each one is touching the base of the pan – you may find this easier to do in two batches. Leave to cook for three minutes, then turn using tongs or two wooden spoons. The beans and oil might spit: if they do, keep a lid cocked over them.

Cook the beans for another six or so minutes, turning them again after three minutes, until they look withered and blackened. Turn off the heat, then scoop the beans on to a plate, leaving the oil in the pan.

Return the pan to the heat, and add a tablespoon more oil, if need be. Add the tofu and mushroom mixture to the hot oil and cook, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan, for up to 10 minutes, or until reduced and turning crisp and browned in places. Add the ginger, garlic, spring onions, chillies and crushed Sichuan peppercorns, stir to mix, and cook for three minutes more.

Return the beans to the pan with the Shaoxing wine and soy, stir for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a serving plate. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.