A classic, very spicy Chinese dish that is usually made with minced meat and tofu, but this 
vegan version still delivers the punch that is associated with the original.

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground 
Szechuan pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes 
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a 5 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 250g mushrooms, sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons chilli bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 400g firm tofu, cut into 1--2cm cubes
  • salt and freshly ground 
black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • a bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat and add the Szechuan pepper, quickly followed by the chilli flakes, garlic and ginger, stirring constantly and moving the ingredients around the pan. 

Turn the heat down to medium, add the mushrooms, bean paste, soy sauce and vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Now add the tofu cubes, mix well and cook over a low heat for another 5 minutes. Check the seasoning, then finish with a little toasted sesame oil and sprinkle with sliced spring onions. Serve with plain steamed rice.

For a more authentic taste, substitute tiny dried whole chillies for the chilli flakes.

Diced aubergines can be used instead of mushrooms, as they are perfect for absorbing 
the spicy sauce.

Leon: Fast Vegetarian by Jane Baxter & Henry Dimbleby, Conran Octopus 2014. Photography by Georgia Glynn Smith.