Tofu with Black bean and Chilli

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

My husband just returned from a trip to China. When he ate dinner at the home of his host, he surprised everyone at the table by recognizing and exclaiming his love for Sichuan green beans. How did he know about that, they asked. He told them his wife cooked Chinese food all the time. They didn't really believe him, so he took out his phone to show them photos of some of the dishes I had made recently. He said they all nodded, yes, that those dishes looked pretty familiar. The host's sister commented that the food looked good, but I should garnish more. Too true! I always get the garnish ready and then at the last second forget all about it. Happens all the time.
It makes me realize how differently we eat here in Toronto than people do in other places. In China, the food is all Chinese, and when we were in Italy last year, pretty much all of the food is Italian. Within walking distance of my home there are Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Cuban, Mexican, Jamaican, French, Japanese, Ecuadorean and Korean restaurants. A very short drive takes you to Finnish, Persian, Turkish, Spanish, Vietnamese and Himalayan restaurants. Toronto has the most diverse population in the world, and people have brought their cuisines with them. Over the years grocery stores have changed to accommodate these tastes, and now I can buy the ingredients for any cuisine I want to try.
When I made this tofu and black bean dish for my son the other day, my husband asked me for a photo of it to send over to China so they could see it. Of course, I didn't garnish it.
This recipe is from "Every Grain of Rice" by Fuchsia Dunlop.

Prep time: 20 minutes  

Total time: 30 minutes  

Yield: 4 servings

Stir-fried Tofu with Black Beans and Chili


  • 5 ouncesfirm tofu
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • An equivalent amount ginger
  • 8-10 dried chillies
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 green bell pepper
  • 2/3 celery stick
  • 2 spring onions
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons black bean sauce
  • 1/2  teaspoon Sichuan pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Dash freshly ground pepper
  • Dash light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cooking directions
  1. Cut the tofu into 2 inch strips, each 3/8 inch thick. Peel and slice the garlic and ginger. Snip the chilies in half with a pair of scissors and discard their seeds as far as possible. Peel the onion and cut lengthways into strips of a similar thickness to the tofu. Cut the peppers and celery into strips of similar dimensions. Cut the spring onions into 2 inch lengths, keeping the green and white parts separate.
  2. Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a medium flame. Add the black bean sauce, chilies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry until wonderfully fragrant. Then add the ginger and garlic and sizzle for a few moments more. Add the onions, peppers, celery and spring onion whites, increase the heat to high and stir-fry until hot and fragrant.
  3. Season with the sugar, a good pinch of pepper and light soy sauce to taste. Add the tofu and continue to stir-fry until it is hot and everything smells delicious, adding the spring onion greens towards the end of the cooking time. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

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